3rd time no charm at all: Mount women fall in NEC

LIU upends favorites in tourney final, 70-61

March 06, 2001|By Christian Ewell | Christian Ewell,SUN STAFF

TRENTON, N.J. - There was nothing new about the scene at Sovereign Bank Arena last night.

In front of a sparse crowd on a March evening, the Mount St. Mary's women's basketball team made a beeline for the lockers, all eyes averted from the sight of the jubilant opponents.

This time, the Long Island Blackbirds were the joyful sponsors of the Mountaineers' misery, using 21 points from junior Angelika Stec and 16 rebounds from freshman Jessica Brookes to beat Mount St. Mary's, 70-61, for the Northeast Conference tournament title and an automatic bid to the NCAA tournament.

It was the third straight season that the Mount (15-14) has entered the NEC tournament as the favorite, and the third straight year that it fell short.

The loss was particularly painful for seniors Kia Williams and Deanna Butters, who combined for 35 points and 16 rebounds. The pair, who believed Sunday's win over Sacred Heart was a good omen, had endured the previous upsets with the consolation that there was always another chance.

"Before, there were years to follow," said Williams, who was the league's Player of the Year and ended her career with a 20-point night. "But now there are not, and it hurts because ... we can't say we can come back and do it again."

Mount's problem was shooting (34 percent), rebounding (50-38 disadvantage) and finishing (21 forced turnovers rarely led to points).

The turnovers were "sloppy play, but they didn't turn into layups," Blackbirds coach Tony Bozzella said.

The Mount doesn't perform well when forced to a slower pace, mostly because of weak outside shooting. So, Long Island used a zone to defend against Williams and Butters down low, forcing the Mount to go outside and daring it to beat the Blackbirds from three-point range.

The Mount wasn't up to the task. Coming off a 1-for-10 effort outside the arc against Sacred Heart, it was nearly as bad last night, making only two of 11 three-point tries.

"We weren't able to get them out of the zone," Mount St. Mary's coach Vanessa Blair said. "Getting the ball inside to Kia and Deanna, they did everything they could do, but we just didn't have a good shooting night."

Freshman guard Adrienne Harris, the Mount's main threat aside from Butters and Williams, made only one of six three-point attempts and one of 10 field-goal attempts overall. Offense wasn't the only area in which Harris was tormented. She guarded Stec while Kiana Fobbs was shadowing Kim MacMillan, the league's leading scorer.

With Mount concentrating on MacMillan and tournament MVP Tamika Dudley, Stec worked Harris for eight points in eight minutes as the Blackbirds turned a 19-12 deficit into a 31-30 lead on a MacMillan three-pointer with 5:30 left in the first half.

Later, Stec's scoop shot gave Long Island the lead for good at 33-32 at the 2:30 mark, and the Blackbirds went into halftime with a 35-32 advantage.

"Before the game, I said, `You've gotta be aggressive,' " Bozzella said, referring to Stec. "And boy, was she ever. She made us look really smart."

As late as the 5:36 mark of the second half, the Mountaineers cut Long Island's lead to 55-52 on Williams' jumper, but the Blackbirds never succumbed to the outbursts that the Mount had been capable of during the season.

While Fobbs had five steals to go along with 11 assists, the running game was a casualty of inefficient shooting, which Blair said had been a problem throughout the season.

The win was LIU's second straight over the Mount after having lost 23 consecutive.

"It's not that we hadn't been able to beat Mount St. Mary's - this is a brand-new team," MacMillan said. "Now people are going to take notice of us, and if we stick together, there's no one we can't beat."

LONG ISLAND-Dudley 4-9 6-7 14, Winston 1-6 2-8 4, Brookes 5-9 3-4 14, Stec 9-11 3-3 21, MacMillan 5-14 1-3 13, Moro 1-5 0-0 2, Myers 1-3 0-0 2. Totals 26-57 15-25 70.

MOUNT. ST. MARY'S-Butters 5-12 5-8 15, Williams 10-23 0-0 20, Hegge 2-3 0-0 4, Harris 1-13 2-4 5, Fobbs 2-6 2-3 6, Bogart 1-3 0-0 2, Walton 0-1 0-0 0, Ritter 3-7 2-2 9, Baccouche 0-2 0-0 0. Totals 24-70 11-17 61.

Halftime-Long Island, 35-32. 3-point goals-LI 3-13 (Brookes 1-1, MacMillan 2-9, Moro 0-1, Winston 0-1); MSM 2-11 (Ritter 1-2, Harris 1-6, Baccouche 0-1, Fobbs 0-1). Fouled out-Butters. Rebounds-LI 50 (Brookes 16); MSM 38 (Butters 9). Assists-LI 10 (Stec 3); MSM 17 (Fobbs 11). Total fouls-LI 16; MSM 22. A-N/A.

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