Saints break Lions#039; streak in sloppy GNAC final

The Emerson women’s basketball team’s hot streak came to an end on Feb. 28 when they lost in the Great Northeast Athletic Conference Championship game by a margin of 51-40.

At the teams’ other meeting this season, a hard-fought Feb. 11 game in Emerson’s Brown-Plofker Gymnasium, the Lions were able to upset GNAC-leading Emmanuel in the game’s waning minutes, ending with a score of 70-66.

This year had been the team’s most successful ever, in terms of both the season and the playoff rounds. Despite this end to their GNAC hopes, the Lions qualified for the Eastern College Athletic Conference tournament, defeating Endicott College 76-66 in the first round on March 4.

Sophomore center Lauren Zaniboni led the way for the Lions, scoring a team-high 18 points and contributing nine rebounds, two blocks and a steal in 31 minutes. Sophomore guard Kathy Andrade and senior forward Lauren Vassallo both contributed nine rebounds, and sophomore guard Andrea Kosek added 11 points, four steals and a block.

“We did not play up to our potential,” said audio post-production major Kosek, who had 16 turnovers and fouled out of the game. “Basically our mentality got in the way of achieving. We did not play our game.” Emerson had 39 turnovers as a team, significantly higher than their season average of 21.5 per game.

Head Coach Bill Gould said he felt the Lions were able to find their game on defense, though he felt they had a tough time getting the ball in the net.

“We played good on [defense], but we didn’t get it done on offense,” he said.

The full-court press of Emmanuel proved to be too much for the Lions to handle, racking up 19 steals and forcing the Lions to make difficult passes throughout the entire game.

The Emerson defense was physical and perhaps too anxious, especially in the second half. The Lions sent the Saints to the free throw line a total 37 times, 22 of these occurring in the second half. They hit 29 of their free throws, while the Lions hit only six of nine.

The Lions did manage to hold the Saints to just 10 of 66, or 15.2 percent, shooting from the field. Kristin Bell, the starting guard for Emmanuel led the Saints with 20 points, missing just one of her 18 free throws while going 1-11 away from the line.

Turnovers and sloppy offense cost both teams, but hit the Lions especially hard. Twenty-six personal fouls were called against Emerson, while Emmanuel was only charged with 19. The team was disappointed by the officiating of Mike Motta, Leslie Boucher and David Gustafson.

“We can’t blame our loss on [the referees], but with the amount of fouls and some of the calls they made, it was really hard for us,” Kosek said.

Senior guard Bri Papa agreed the officiating was unequal, but she didn’t attribute the loss to the referees. Rather, she blamed it on the Lions’ lack of playoff experience compared to the Saints.

“[Emmanuel] is a better team in championship environment,” she said, adding that the Emerson team felt “overwhelmed.”

Freshman guard Rachel Kaye, a iBeacon/i contributor, was glad the team qualified for further play in the ECACs. She said the team’s victory over Endicott proves how far the team has come this season.

“We had to come out strong,” she said. “We didn’t want to end on a sour note. We wanted to have fun and play together as a team.”

The girls advance to the ECAC second round, hosted by Worcester Polytechnic Institute. The time of the game and the Lions’ opponent have yet to be determined. If the team is victorious on March 7 they will advance to the ECAC final game on March 8.