BABSON PARK, Mass. - Rhode Island College built a 22-point second half lead and then withstood a late Bowdoin College comeback attempt as the Anchorwomen defeated the Polar Bears, 61-54, in the semifinal round of the 2012 Babson Invitational Tournament at Staake Gymnasium on Friday night.
With the win, RIC (1-0) advances to Saturday's championship game against host Babson at 1:30 p.m., while Bowdoin (0-1) will face Framingham State in the consolation game at 1:30 p.m.
The Anchorwomen were paced by senior Ashley O'Dell, who scored 14 points to go with six rebounds and seven assists, and junior Cara Paladino, who netted nine points while adding game-highs of 14 rebounds, four blocked shots, and five steals. Senior Courtney Burns chipped in with 13 points and five boards for RIC, which enjoyed a 46-35 rebound advantage in the contest.
Bowdoin received a double-double from sophomore Megan Phelps, who shot 6-for-9 from the field to finish with 14 points and 10 rebounds. Senior Kaitlin Donahoe tossed in 13 points and dished out three assists, and first-year Shannon Brady shot 5-of-10 for 10 points and six boards in her collegiate debut. The Polar Bears struggled through shooting woes throughout the contest, hitting just 34.5 percent of their field goal attempts – including only 2-of-11 from three-point range – and only 57.1 percent of their free throws.
After trading hoops in the opening minute of play Rhode Island College jumped to a 13-7 lead on the strength of an 11-2 run over the next five minutes. O'Dell scored five points during the run while Burns, Paladino, and junior Alexia Vega all chipped in with layups. Bowdoin bounced right back with eight straight points and took a 14-13 lead on a layup by Brady with 11:48 left in the first half.
The Anchorwomen closed the half by outscoring the Polar Bears 15-8 as O'Dell chipped in with five points and junior guard Stephanie Prusko knocked down the first of her two three-pointers to help push the lead to as many as eight points before settling for a 28-22 advantage at the break.
After Burns hit a jumper for Rhode Island College to open the second half, Bowdoin got back-to-back hoops from Donahoe, and a jump shot from Sara Binkhorst to trim the deficit to 30-28 with 16:16 remaining. The Anchorwomen took control of the game from there though, using their suffocating defense to ignite a 24-4 run over the next 9:50 to break the game open.
A jump shot and two free throws by Burns, followed by a layup from O'Dell, who rebounded her own miss pushed the Rhode Island College lead back to 36-28 with 14:39 to go in the game. Following a timeout and a Bowdoin missed layup, sophomore Megan Sewall converted an offensive rebound for the Anchorwomen and Prusko buried her second three-pointer of the night following a turnover to go up 43-28. Burns knocked down a jump shot on the next possession and later canned two free throws to push the lead to 19 with 11:02 remaining.
Phelps and Donahoe scored on consecutive possessions to get back within 47-32, but Rhode Island College got a three-pointer from first-year guard Michell Lagrotteria, a layup from Paladino, and a pair of free throws to take its biggest lead of the contest, 54-32, with 6:26 remaining.
The Polar Bears wouldn't go quietly though, as six points from Brady, a layup and free throw from sophomore Siena Mitman and a trifecta from Phelps cut the deficit to 54-44 with 2:56 remaining. Rhode Island College knocked down 5-of-7 from the free throw line in the closing minutes to preserve the victory.