Babson Park, MA --- Senior Priscilla Dunphy (Barrington, RI) was key down the stretch with a layup, steal and a free throw to help lift third-seeded WPI to its second NEWMAC Women's Basketball Championship game in as many years with a 56-53 semifinal triumph over cross-town rival and seventh-seeded Clark Saturday at Babson's Staake Gymnasium.
The Engineers (23-4), who are ranked ninth in the NCAA Division III Regional Rankings, extend their winning-streak to five games. WPI will now face top-seeded Babson in a rematch of last year's final at noon tomorrow. Clark, who was looking to become the lowest seed to take home the title, concludes its season 14-13.
With the game knotted at 53-53 and 21.3 seconds left, in what proved to be the game, Dunphy drove in and converted a left-handed layup. She then intercepted a pass with 6.4 on the clock and was quickly fouled. The senior hit the back end of a pair of freebies for the 56-53 final. Clark did have a final chance but the long-range miss was launched after the buzzer went off.
Clark enjoyed a pair of five-point leads early in the contest behind a pair of triples by junior Haley Wilder (Rindge, NH). After a layup by senior Tess Nogueira (Merrimac, MA) with 6:51 left in the opening stanza, the game remained in a two-point window until senior Aretha Sullivan (Worcester, MA) canned a 3-pointer with 2:35 left. With 1:16 until the end of the first, Sullivan sank another three as the Cougars once again had a five-point advantage. Nogueira had the final say with a jumper 22 seconds later.
The Cougars took an eight-point lead behind a 3-pointer by sophomore Maya Kerstetter (Northampton, MA) as the team remained on fire from downtown. A Wilder trey put Clark up by three with 1:29 left in the half. In all, Clark went 7-of-11 and 9-of-18 overall from the field over the first 20 minutes.
The Engineers burst out of the gate and embarked on an 11-2 run to even the game at 32-32 just 3:16 into the third quarter. Noguiera got it started with a layup and junior Ama Biney (Worcester, MA) scored the last six of the spurt. WPI maintained control of the scoreboard until Clark regained the lead behind a Sullivan layup with 3:31 remaining in the third.
Clark went 3-of-4 from the field, including a pair of 3-pointers and was 3-of-3 from line to start the fourth quarter. The momentum faded as they finished 0-for-5 with six turnovers in final 7:19 of the game over 12 possessions.
Biney led all players with 18 points, seven rebounds, and seven steals. Junior Stasha Greenalch (Newington, CT) handed out a game-best six assists and Nogueira was credit with a contest-high two blocks. Dunphy added 11 points in the effort.
Wilder led the Cougars with 15 points and shared team-high honors with five rebounds. Junior Sam O'Gara (Worcester, MA) had the other five boards to go with 13 points while Sullivan finished with 11 points.
WPI enjoyed advantages in points in the paint (22-8), points off turnovers (21-11) while Clark had the 11-5 margin in second-chance points and a 10-9 edge in points off the bench. The Engineers had the better free throw percentage of 71.4 as Clark shot 40.5 overall and 43.5 from beyond the arc.
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