Mount St. Mary’s women’s basketball team secured a Northeast Conference regular season title for the first time in 20 years when the Mountaineers pulled away and beat Saint Francis University 56-43 on Monday night.
The Mount (15-4, 14-2 NEC) clinched the top spot in the upcoming conference tourney and captured the regular season crown for the 10th time in program program since joining the NEC in 1989. That includes a run of seven straight from 1989-1996.
The NEC’s most prolific offense was forced to win Monday with defense, as the Red Flash (12-8, 10-4) held the Mount to 35.4% shooting. The 13-point win was aided by the visitors forcing 21 turnovers with 10 steals, grabbing 32 rebounds and blocking two shots. Rebecca Lee pulled down nine rebounds, and Michaela Harrison had five steals.
Offensive sparks came from Aryna Taylor, whose early first-half success led to her tying a career-high with 19 points. Kendall Bresee tallied 39 minutes of play and reached her season average of 15 points.
Bresee got the second half off to a good start with a steal and score. SFU hung around and a layup by Haley Thomas got her side within a point at 31-30. For two tense minutes, neither team could get on the board until Bresee drew a foul and converted two free throws. Although the Mount did not convert a field goal for the rest of the quarter, it had five more free-throw attempts and made them all.
Leading 40-32 heading into the final frame, Bresee broke the icy streak with a layup to push the Mount’s edge over double figures. The offense finally hit its stride, going 6-for-11 shooting. The lead grew to as high as 18 and never got back down to single digits as Mount St. Mary’s cruised to the title.
The Mount has a pair of regular-season games remaining at Wagner on March 4-5 before going after an eighth NEC tournament championship. The Seahawks are tied with Saint Francis for second at 10-4, and Fairleigh Dickinson (10-6) and Sacred Heart (8-6) are battling for spots as well.
Mount St. Mary’s is set to host the No. 4 seed in the NEC tourney semifinals on March 10 at Knott Arena.