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Women’s basketball survives scare from Central Connecticut
Less than a minute into the overtime, Monique Lee, smothered between a pair of Central Connecticut players, grabbed hold of a loose ball and quickly signaled for a much-needed timeout.
The play provided a moment of calm on an afternoon that was anything but, as it allowed Quinnipiac to regain the poise it lost late in the second half. It typified the serene leadership the sophomore forward displayed down the stretch as second-seeded Quinnipiac outlasted seventh-seeded Central Connecticut in overtime, 68-64, in an NEC quarterfinals game Saturday afternoon at the Burt Kahn Court.
After the Bobcats lost control of a lead late in the second half, Lee knocked down a pair of clutch free throws to tie the score at 57 with 26 seconds remaining in regulation. Lee’s critical free throws forced the overtime.
“I’m not going to lie, I was a little nervous,” Lee said. “But you know, you practice these types of plays in practice all the time, and you just hope that when you get a chance to get to the line in that type of circumstance, that you knock them down, and I was fortunate to.”
Lee connected on another pair of crucial free throws with 34 ticks remaining in overtime, allowing the Bobcats to take a 65-62 lead.
Quinnipiac maintained composure throughout the five-minute extra session, outscoring CCSU by an 11-7 ratio. Point guard Erin Kerner, a 79 percent free throw shooter, put the game on ice with a heart-piercing free throw with four ticks left.
“We didn’t want it to be this close,” Lee said. “We lost a little bit of focus. But we knew that we play well in tight games and we knew that we just had to keep our confidence and pull it out in the end.”
Kerner buried a mid-range jumper with 2:54 remaining in OT, a shot that sliced Central’s lead to 62-61.
With loud chants of “Defense!” dominating the bandbox gym, CCSU committed a critical turnover as Quinnipiac off guard Brianna Rooney pick-pocketed Gabriella Guegbelet with 2:19 to go.
Forward Jackie Harris backed a defender down to the post and sank a 3-footer as the shot clock expired with 1:50 to go, giving the ‘Cats a 63-62 they wouldn’t relinquish.
Despite giving up the lead, the Bobcats, a callow playoff team, didn’t flake under the postseason pressure.
“I’ve been more concerned about our lack of postseason experience,” said Quinnipiac head coach Tricia Sacca-Fabbri, who was honored as the Brenda Reilly Coach of the Year for the NEC two days before the game.
“When March comes, anything can happen,” Sacca-Fabbri said. “I think we’re so young that we don’t understand it. So it’s really important to get that experience, to fight and claw and figure out a way to win.”
Central led 12-2 after coming out and applying intense defensive pressure that instigated some early turnovers. The Bobcats came roaring back, reeling off a 12-0 run that was capped off by a Mandy Pennewell layup at 11:07.
Central scored 13 of the second half’s final 17 points. Brittany Dixon’s 3-pointer with 42 seconds left gave the Blue Devils a two-point lead.
Kerner paced the Bobcats with 17 points. The freshman also dished out six assists and grabbed six rebounds. Lee and Pennewell chipped in with 14 apiece, while Harris added eight points and seven boards for Quinnipiac.