Northeast women

Tournament Preview

March 04, 2006|By BILL FREE

What -- Northeast Conference women's tournament

Where -- At sites of higher seeds

When -- Quarterfinals today; semifi nals Tuesday; championship game next Saturday

2005 champion -- St. Francis (Pa.)

2006 favorite -- Sacred Heart. The Pioneers (23-4 overall, 16-2 NEC) gained the No. 1 seed for the first time, giving them a chance to play every game on their home court (Pitt Center). Sacred Heart is unbeaten at home (12-0 overall, 9-0 in the league). The Pioneers have won seven straight and are outscoring oppo nents by an average of 14.8 points a game. Sacred Heart also has the NEC's Player of the Year in 5-foot-8 junior forward Amanda Pape.

Dark horse -- Long Island. The fifth-seeded Blackbirds (13-14, 11-7) are a tough team as Sacred Heart dis covered Jan. 30 in New York, where the Pioneers were handed their first NEC loss of the season, 68-63.

Player to watch -- Pape. She can score out of transition, and did it of ten enough to lead the league in scor ing (18.0 points a game).

Outlook -- Mount St. Mary's has a presence in this tournament after a three-year drought, and is looking for its first tournament victory since 2001. Coach Vanessa Blair has rebuilt the program and hopes to contend for the school's fourth NEC tourna ment title. The Mount is led by senior point guard Samira Rashid, who leads the team in scoring (11.6 points a game) and assists (3.8 average); sophomore Tiffany Green, the league's Defensive Player of the Year; and junior LaToya Butler, the team's top rebounder at 8.2 a game.

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