Olson records key block & sinks go-ahead free throw in final minute
BRISTOL, R.I. (February 23, 2017) – Senior Sammie Olson (Tolland, Conn.) knocked down the go-ahead free throw with 4.9 seconds remaining and Western New England University came up with a defensive stop on the final play of regulation as the third-seeded Golden Bears secured their second consecutive trip to the Commonwealth Coast Conference (CCC) title game with a 44-43 victory over second-seeded Roger Williams University this evening at the Campus Rec Center.
With the win, Western New England (19-8) advances to the CCC championship game for the third time in program history. The Golden Bears are headed back to Biddeford, Maine on Saturday afternoon to take on the University of New England in a rematch of last season's title contest. The top-seeded Nor'easters defeated Eastern Nazarene, 75-59, in tonight's other semifinal matchup. Roger Williams falls to 19-8 with the loss.
• Senior forward Emily Anderson (Rocky Hill, Conn.) led the Golden Bears with a team-high 13 points on 6-of-12 shooting from the field to go with seven rebounds, one block and one assist.
• Senior forward Paige Young (Berlin, Conn.) grabbed a game-high nine rebounds while also recording six points, five assists and two steals.
• Senior guard Sammie Battaini (Leominster, Mass.) added nine points on 4-of-10 shooting, two boards, one assist and one steal.
• Junior forward Mariah Nicholas (Acushnet, Mass.) carried the load offensively for Roger Williams, scoring a game-high 22 points on 9-of-17 shooting from the field, 1-of-2 from beyond the arc, and 3-of-4 from the charity stripe. Nicholas also totaled five rebounds, three assists and two steals.
• CCC Player of the Year Bridget Quilty (Duxbury, Mass.) was also in double figures with ten points to go with four boards and one steal.
• Western New England used strong defense to claim a 14-7 lead through one quarter, as the Golden Bears limited the Hawks to 3-of-12 shooting (25%) over the opening ten minutes of play. After a pair of early baskets by Nicholas and a free throw by Quilty had the Hawks ahead 5-3, Western New England closed out the frame with an 11-2 run. Five different Golden Bears contributed points during the run, including Battaini, who capped it with a three-pointer in the final minute.
• Led by Nicholas and junior Rebecca Ritchie (Hanover, Mass.), the Hawks battled back in the second quarter. Nicholas, who accounted for six of Roger Williams' seven points in the first quarter, scored the team's first six points in the second. A layup by Ritchie with 1:53 on the clock capped the scoring in the half as the Hawks pulled to within one (20-19) at the break.
• Roger Williams seized the momentum early in the second half, as a layup by Quilty on the first possession of the third quarter sparked a 9-0 run that saw the Hawks claim a 28-20 lead at the 6:17 mark of the period.
• Although junior guard Dorothy O'Neill (Staten Island, N.Y.) and sophomore guard Meghan Gilhool (Montrose, Pa.) both connected from beyond the arc over the final 4:14 of the third, the Golden Bears still faced a 36-30 deficit heading into the fourth quarter.
• A pair of layups by Anderson early in the fourth had Western New England back to within two points (36-34), and another O'Neill three-pointer with 5:21 to play knotted the score at 37-37, before Young put the Golden Bears back in front with a layup a minute later.
• Roger Williams, which trailed 41-39 following a layup by Anderson with 2:30 remaining, used four free throws over the next minute to regain a 43-41 edge.
• Battaini drove to the hoop for a layup with 1:05 on the clock, tying the score for the final time at 43-43. On Roger Williams' ensuing possession, Olson came through with a clutch block on a Nicholas layup attempt, giving the Golden Bears the ball back with a chance to take the lead.
• After a foul put Olson at the charity stripe with 4.9 seconds remaining, the senior made the second of two free throws to snap the tie. Western New England used tough defense to seal the contest, as Nicholas' jumper from the baseline at the buzzer was off the mark.
• Western New England shot 75% from the field (6-of-8) in the fourth quarter, while holding Roger Williams to just 1-of-9 shooting (11.1%) over the final ten minutes of play.
• Anderson scored ten of her team-high 13 points in the second half.
• The Golden Bears recorded assists on 15 of their 18 made field goals in the game.
• Western New England will be making consecutive appearances in the CCC title game for the first time in program history.