HACKENSACK, N.J. -- The Mount St. Mary's women's basketball team advanced to the Northeast Conference Championship final for the third time in four years with a 74-63 victory over Monmouth last night.
With the win, the Mountaineers improved to 20-6, while Monmouth concluded its season with an 11-17 record. Mount St. Mary's will play Fairleigh Dickinson, an 81-67 winner over Marist, in the NEC championship game tonight at 7:30.
Monmouth took a 2-0 lead off a layup by Nicole Cervino. When Maggie Meagher tied the game moments later, a bucket-by-bucket tug-of-war began, with another tie and six lead changes.
The Mountaineers were down 16-15 with 9:20 to play, when a 15-foot jumper by Melissa Cuneo sparked an 8-0 run. Susie Rowlyk scored four points in the spurt, including the layup that gave the Mount a 23-16 lead with 8:08 remaining.
The teams continued to trade baskets, with the Mount's lead varying from five to eight points. The Mountaineers were ahead, 31-25, with 4:18 to play. The Mount St. Mary's defense held the Hawks scoreless for the remainder of the period, and the Mountaineers took a 38-25 advantage into the locker room at intermission.
Cuneo scored the first points of the second half, a 16-foot jumper that gave the Mountaineers a 40-25 lead, their biggest of the game. Monmouth outscored the Mount 13-2 over the next five minutes to come within four points, 42-38, with 13:30 remaining.
The Mountaineers built the lead back up to 10 points with six straight free throws that made the score 54-44 with 8:44 to go. Again the Hawks rallied, using a 9-1 run to come within 55-53 at the 6:57 mark.
Diana Matula scored four straight points and Maggie Meagher hit a layup to bring the lead back up to eight, 61-53, with 6:39 to play.
The Mountaineers' last field goal came with just over three minutes remaining in the game. Rowlyk drove to the hoop and was fouled, though she missed the free throw. With the score 65-55, the Mountaineers' last nine points of the game came from the free-throw line, including six from Rowlyk and three from senior Beth Jowdy.
Matula ended the game with 23 points and 14 rebounds, with Rowlyk adding 18 points. Tracy Allocco led Monmouth with 16 points.