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Mount St. Mary’s women take care of Saint Francis U, one win away from regular-season NEC title

Pre-game warmups are a time for Mount St. Mary’s to let loose.

The Mountaineers get ready for their opponents like almost every other team, with layup lines and jump-shot drills while upbeat music blares through the public address system. But challenges are created within the routines, and Mount players try to keep alive streaks of made shots while teammates roar with approval.

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Senior Kendall Bresee and junior Michaela Harrison say the team’s record is 11 baskets in a row. The home team didn’t quite get there during warmups before Sunday’s matchup with Saint Francis U, but no matter. Mount St. Mary’s was having fun, and that carried over in its 71-55 victory at Knott Arena that pushed the Mountaineers one win closer toward securing the top seed in the upcoming Northeast Conference tournament.

Bresee poured in a career-high 29 points, fellow guard Harrison added 16, and senior center Rebecca Lee posted a double-double with 11 points and 14 rebounds. Mount St. Mary’s (14-4, 13-2 NEC) led by as many as 24 points, withstood a third-quarter charge from Saint Francis and pulled way in the fourth.

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The Mountaineers can capture the regular-season conference title, their first in 20 years, with a victory at Saint Francis (12-7, 10-3) on Monday. No doubt the 140-plus mile trip to Loretto, Pennsylvania will be entertaining.

“We had an eight-hour bus ride [last week], to and from Merrimack. I think most teams would have probably done homework or slept. We were up just messing with each other the whole time,” said Bresee, one of four seniors honored before Sunday’s game. “Watching basketball, playing games. That’s just how our team is. It makes it so much more enjoyable. Because these days can be long. ... It helps when we like each other.”

Mount St. Mary's Kendall Bresee, left, is tied up by St. Francis' Haley Thomas, right, for a jump ball in the fourth quarter. Mount St. Mary's defeated St. Francis by score of 71 to 55 in college women's basketball at Knott Arena on Feb 28, 2021.
Mount St. Mary's Kendall Bresee, left, is tied up by St. Francis' Haley Thomas, right, for a jump ball in the fourth quarter. Mount St. Mary's defeated St. Francis by score of 71 to 55 in college women's basketball at Knott Arena on Feb 28, 2021. (Kenneth K. Lam / Baltimore Sun)

Bresee and Harrison combined for 14 points in the second quarter and led MSM on a 27-4 run that gave the home team plenty of momentum. Bresee and Harrison each sank a pair of 3-pointers during the run, Lee added a three-point play and had five points, and when Aryna Taylor sank a 3 with 1:13 to go the Mountaineers led 42-18.

The Red Flash outscored the Mount 23-10 in the third quarter and trailed 52-45 with 10 minutes to play. Bresee had eight points in the final frame, however, and Mount St. Mary’s wasn’t threatened down the stretch en route to its eighth consecutive victory.

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“Huge, huge confidence booster,” said Harrison, who recently reached 1,000 points in her college career. “Our team, we’re pretty confident. We know our abilities, we’ve seen it happen over the past eight games we’ve won. It just adds to it.”

Bresee handed out seven assists and grabbed six rebounds, and Mount St. Mary’s held Saint Francis to 33.3% shooting. Karson Swogger had 18 points for the Red Flash, the only player on her team to finish in double figures.

Mount St. Mary’s has two more road games after Monday’s visit to Saint Francis with a back-to-back set at Wagner on March 4-5. The NEC tournament begins one week later, and the Mountaineers want to be playing it at home.

Mount St. Mary's Michaela Harrison (#10), left scores two points over St. Francis' Jenna Mastellone, right, in the first half of college women's basketball at Knott Arena on Feb 28, 2021.
Mount St. Mary's Michaela Harrison (#10), left scores two points over St. Francis' Jenna Mastellone, right, in the first half of college women's basketball at Knott Arena on Feb 28, 2021. (Kenneth K. Lam / Baltimore Sun)

“Huge win for our program,” MSM coach Maria Marchesano said after Sunday’s game. “Today was a big one, not only because we’re fighting for a championship but also because it was Senior Day. We always want to win at home on Senior Day. I thought our girls played together, they battled hard all game long. ... Just excited for the opportunity we have [Monday].”

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