Nashua, N.H. – Having never had the lead over the first 30 minutes of the game, host and fourth-seeded Daniel Webster limited fifth-seeded Bay Path to just five points during a game-changing nine minute span in the second half and posted a 68-57 victory in the first round of the New England Collegiate Conference championship tournament Tuesday night at Mario Vagge Gymnasium.
The Eagles (14-12) advanced to the NECC final four where they will face host and top-seeded Regis College on Friday in the first of two semifinals. Game time is 6:00 p.m.
Bay Path, enjoying the best season in its history under Head Coach Jill Shaw and graduating just one senior, finished its campaign 12-13 overall (9-9 NECC), a remarkable two-year turnaround after a winless campaign just prior to Shaw's arrival.
Vanessa Bosques (Windham, Conn.) tallied a game-high 24 points with four three-pointers, adding a team-best seven rebounds along with three assists and two steals. Fellow senior Emily Travis (Somerset, Mass.) notched 12 points, three boards and a game and career-high five steals, and rookie Ashley Giampetruzzi(Manchester, N.H.) added 11 points, four boards and four assists.
Ashley England (Old Town, Maine) pitched in with eight points and Jennifer Fredericks (Beacon Falls, Conn.) had seven for the winners.
Kayla Skiffington (East Longmeadow, Mass.) caused fits for DWC all night, finishing with a remarkable double double of 20 points and 20 rebounds including 16 on the defensive rim, and was 10 of 13 at the line. Justine Hook (Berwick, Penn.) added 11 points while Toni Alexander (Enfield, Conn.) added seven points, six boards and a game-high five assists.
Senior Brittany Alexander (Enfield) closed out her career with six points and three boards for the Wildcats.
Trailing by as many as 10 points in the first half and eight in the second, DWC struggled badly to get its offense in gear and was dominated in the low post by Bay Path's strong inside play keyed by Skiffington. The Wildcats owned a 48-33 advantage on the boards for the night and outscored the hosts 28-18 in the paint.
But DWC was helped by 32 Bay Path turnovers as the Eagles picked the Wildcats pockets for 17 steals and scored a decisive victory in points off those giveaways (28-2) buying them the time they would need to find their shooting rhythm down the stretch.
DWC shot only 26-percent in the first half and that average dipped to as low as 24-percent midway through the second.
Trailing by five at the break (35-30), the Eagles kept things close and pulled within four on two occasions but Bay Path kept answering. A Giampetruzzi jumper with 13:57 left made it a 38-36 game, but a Hook three and jumpers from Toni Alexander and Skiffington put the Wildcats back ahead by eight (45-37) with 11:44 to go.
DWC turned to a full court press and the pressure started to pay off leading to five straight Bay Path possessions resulting in turnovers. The Eagles took advantage, converting six of their next seven from the floor. A Bosques layup tied it at 45 with 9:49 left and back-to-back baskets from Travis and Ariel Guzman (Yonkers, N.Y.) pushed the Eagles first lead of the night to four.
Bosques followed with a three and Guzman went back inside and suddenly the lead jumped to eight (56-48) with 5:30 left.
A Gladys Reed (Hampden, Conn.) layup helped stem the bleeding for Bay Path, but back-to-back layups from Travis and Bosques pushed the lead to 10 and Bosques iced it with another from downtown with 3:05 left.
When the smoke cleared, DWC had converted on 12 of 14 attempts from the field consuming exactly nine minutes and the 29-5 run had turned an eight-point deficit into a 16-point lead.
The Eagles will face a tall task on Friday as they reach the NECC final four for the fifth straight year – all five seasons of the league's existence as Regis posted a pair of convincing regular season victories. DWC will be bidding for its fourth finals appearance in the last five years and first tourney title since 2011.