HARTFORD, Conn. – Eastern Connecticut State University never trailed, but needed two free throws from sophomore guard Julie Keckler (Trumbull) with three seconds left to guarantee a 45-43 women's basketball win over Springfield College Saturday afternoon in the championship game of the Trinity College Tip-Off Tournament at Ray Oosting Gymnasium.
Eastern (2-0) led by as many as ten points late in the first half but did not score from the floor after sophomore guard Danielle O'Brien (Rockland, MA) swished a three-pointer to give Eastern a 42-37 lead with just under three minutes left. Springfield's (3-1) Emily Jacques answered O'Brien's three-pointer by completing a conventional three-point play 90 seconds later to make it 43-40 with 1:22 left, and the Pride finally pulled even for the only time in the game on Lauren Rudolph's three-point basket with 30 seconds left.
Following an Eastern timeout, Keckler was fouled driving to the basket and converted her only two free throw attempts of the game with three seconds left for the margin of victory. Eastern senior guard Sabrina LeMere (North Branford) sealed the victory with a steal as time expired.
In a defensive-minded game, the teams combined for 35 turnovers and a 30.5 shooting percentage (7-of-27 from distance) but connected on 17 of 23 free throws.
Coming off a ten-point win over Montclair State University in Friday's late game, Springfield was 2-of-14 from the floor with four turnovers as Eastern moved out to a quick seven-point lead after one quarter. The lead reached double figures, 19-9 with 2:35 left in the first half following an eight point run made possible on four free throws by six-foot sophomore forward Anna Barry (Andover), an inside bucket by sophomore guard Jenna Serrantino (Cromwell) and freshman guard Jaclyn Santella's (Hebron) first career basket.
Playing without injured seniors Mya Villard (Cromwell) and Lizzy Cretella (Cheshire) – two of the team's three captains – Eastern got 12 points, three blocked shots (giving her 47 in 30 career games), and a career-high 16 rebounds from Barry.
After sinking 28 of 35 from the stripe in Friday's 77-67 conquest of host Trinity College, the Warriors were 10-of-11 from the foul line (Barry going 6-of-6) against Springfield.
The Warriors were playing without 1000-point scorer Villard for the first time in four years, the all-conference forward having competed in all previous 85 possible games and having started 56 straight until Saturday.
Barry and Serrantino (at left in photo) represented Eastern on the all-tournament team and were joined by Springfield's Alex Goslin, Trinity's Peace Kabari and Montclair's Nicole Carter. In the tournament, Barry had 20 points, 25 rebounds, seven blocks and was 8-of-10 from the stripe. Serrantino had a team-high 23 points with eight rebounds, three assists and two steals. LeMere chipped in 12 points, ten rebounds, five assists and two steals and was 6-of-6 from the foul line.
Eastern hosts Western New England Saturday at 1 p.m. in a non-conference game.