McLaughlin's career high not enough for Panthers
BOSTON, Mass. – Freshman Elizabeth McLaughlin (Melvin Village, N.H.) scored a game-high and career best 20 points, but seventh-seeded Plymouth State University fell to second-seeded University of Massachusetts Boston, 77-63, in the first round of the Little East Conference (LEC) women's basketball tournament.
With the setback the Panthers' season comes to an end with a 7-19 mark, while the Beacons (23-3) advance to the semifinal game where they will face the winner of third-seeded University of Southern Maine and sixth-seeded Keene State College.
PSU got off to a good start when sophomore Brittany Roche (Londonderry, N.H.) drained a three, but the Beacons answered from distance on their next possession. Junior Debra Morrill (Concord, N.H.) put the visitors ahead with a layup but senior Lydia Vital (Cambridge, Mass.) connected from long range to spark a 15-3 surge for UMB and the home team held a 23-12 lead after the first quarter.
UMass Boston increased the lead to 33-16 roughly three minutes into the second quarter. Plymouth chipped away over the next seven minutes and a steal and layup by McLaughlin just before the halftime buzzer cut the margin to 45-34 at the break.
Plymouth came out firing in the third quarter, using a 12-3 run to cut the deficit down to just two points, 48-46, with 3:24 left in the quarter. Junior Cassidy Emerson (Concord, N.H.) had six points during the stretch, with Morrill's layup capping the run. The Beacons responded with seven of the next nine points, but Roche hit from distance to make it 55-51 heading into the final ten minutes.
PSU stayed within five points through the first half of the fourth quarter, but senior Katie Mathieu (Coventry, Conn.) and freshman Jalani Jackson (Brockton, Mass.) connected from long range on back-to-back possessions to push the Beacons' advantage to 68-57. The Panthers cut the deficit to single digits, 72-63, on a layup from junior Jess Conant (Canton, Maine) with three-and-a-half minutes to play but that was as close as PSU would get as UMB hung on for the win.
McLaughlin finished 6-of-12 from the field and 8-of-11 from the free throw line on her way to the career-high. She added six rebounds, six steals and two assist. Conant finished with 12 points and three rebounds, while Morrill added 10 points.
Freshman Joie Grassi (Plymouth, Mass.) led five Beacons in double figures with 15 points (7-of-9) and seven rebounds. Vital and Mathieu both added 12 points, while senior Raven Kelsey (Boston, Mass.) and freshman Shania Osborne (Fairfield, Conn.) chipped in with 11 and 10 points, respectively.
Both teams shot 49% from the field but the Beacons made 12 three-pointers to PSU's two and were nearly perfect from the charity stripe (15-of-16).
The Panthers expect to return everyone from their roster next season as head coach Allison Flynn prepares for her fourth year at the helm.
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