KEENE, N.H. - The top-seeded Keene State College women's basketball team had to work overtime to defeat rival and sixth-seed Plymouth State University Sunday afternoon, 69-68, and capture its first ECAC Division III New England Tournament Championship.
Senior Kristin Degou (Newburyport, Mass.) was named the tournament's most outstanding player after finishing with 14 points, 10 rebounds and six blocks. Keene State (20-9) posts its third 20 win season in the past four years while Plymouth State wraps up the season at 17-11.
The outcome spoiled an outstanding performance from PSU sophomore Alicia Doucet (Manchester, N.H./Central), who finished with a game-high 29 points, eight rebounds, three assists and four blocked shots.
Despite unseasonably warm temperatures outside, the crowd of 656 fans were glued to the seats inside Spaulding Gym for the back-and-fourth game that was reminiscent of past battles between the two rivals.
The outcome wasn't decided until the closing seconds of the extra period. Plymouth State took a three point lead (68-65) after freshman Colleen O'Hara (Otego, N.Y.) hit a three-pointer in front of the Panther's bench with 2:51 to go.
Sophomore guard Sara Laudano (North Haven, Conn.) hit one of two free throws to make it a two point game. KSC got the ball back with just under a minute to play, and Laudano tied the game with a jumper just to the right of the lane with 41 seconds to go.
Degou was sent to the line with 11 seconds to play, and the senior missed her first shot but swished her second attempt to give KSC the 69-68 lead. The Panthers had a chance to tie or win the game in the closing seconds, but the Owls were awarded the ball on the possession arrow after senior Jen Cleaveland and Doucet battled for the ball after a missed shot. Degou took the inbounds pass from Sapp and threw the ball in the air as time expired.
The Panthers jumped out to an early 11-4 lead, but Keene State went a on 19-4 run to go up 23-17 with 5:14 to play in the half. Doucet was the story for PSU in the first half, scoring 19 of her 29 points; including a lay-up in the closing seconds to give Plymouth a 29-24 lead at the break.
After the Panthers went up 42-34 early in the second half, KSC answered with eight straight points to tie the game at 42-all with 8:35 to play. The two teams traded baskets the rest of the way. Sophomore forward Courtney Cirillo (Windsor Locks, Conn.), who finished with her second double-double (14 points and 13 rebounds) in as many days, hit a pair of free throws to put KSC ahead 62-61 with a minute to play in regulation. With 23 seconds to go, Sapp added another free throw to make it 63-61.
Senior forward Laura Kent (Bellingham, Mass.) sent the game into overtime when she hit a lay-up with three seconds in regulation play. That set the stage for the wild overtime period.
PSU entered the game after upsetting third seed Endicott (70-59) and second seed Regis (72-65). In addition to Doucet's 29 points, senior guard Katie Sunderland (Londonderry, N.H.) added 11 points and nine rebounds for the Panthers.
Two Plymouth players came up short in their bid to score 1,000 career points. Kent, who finished with 11 points and nine rebounds, ends her career with 990 points. Junior forward Amanda Kania (Manchester, N.H./West), who fouled out late in regulation, had seven points and nine rebounds also giving her 990 career points with one year to play.
Keene State was making its fifth appearance in the ECAC tournament while Plymouth State has been to the tournament eight times, winning back-to-back crowns in 2002 and 2003.
(Courtesy of Keene State Sports Information)
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