WESTON, Mass. – After winning four of its last five games of the regular season, Regis College enters this week's Great Northeast Athletic Conference Women's Basketball Tournament with positive momentum as it aims to win three games in five days.
Regis completed the conference schedule with a 7-5 league mark, tying Anna Maria for fifth place in the final standings. After losing the tiebreaker due to Anna Maria's victory over Regis Jan. 17, the Pride ended up as the sixth seed and will travel to New Haven, Conn., to face third seed Albertus Magnus in one of four quarterfinals Tuesday, Feb. 19, at 6 p.m.
The Pride's success has been with their defense, as they have won nine straight games when holding their opponents to 60 points or less. In conference play this season, Regis is third in the league in scoring defense, allowing just 59.8 points per game in the 12 GNAC contests over the past two months.
Playing competitive basketball for the first time since her senior year of high school, junior Katryna Veasey (Quincy, Mass.) has led the team in scoring throughout the season, currently averaging 11.0 points per game. Veasey is tied with another newcomer in rebounding average, as she and freshman Arie Searcy (Santa Rosa, Calif.) are averaging 7.0 rebounds per game.
Nikki Bitinaitis (Cromwell, Conn.) has been the team's point guard all year, contributing 7.4 points, 4.1 rebounds, and 3.8 assists per game. Several of those assists resulted in long distance baskets by backcourt mate Maura Russell (Braintree, Mass.), as she broke her own single-season school record for made three-pointers with 54 heading into postseason play.
Valerie Martin (Derry, N.H.), another newcomer after transferring from Mount Ida College, is averaging 9.0 points and 5.3 rebounds per game, plus she leads the Pride in free throw shooting percentage at 77 percent (57-of-74). Senior Sam D'Angelo (Woburn, Mass.) and junior Taylor Iorfino (Monroe, Conn.) provide Regis with a presence in the paint, with D'Angelo averaging 8.0 points and 4.7 rebounds per game and Iorfino contributing 5.2 points and 5.5 rebounds per contest.
Albertus Magnus lost just three games in the regular season: at high-powered offense Westfield State Dec. 6 (103-93), at nationally ranked Saint Joseph's Jan. 10 (77-63), and at second place Emmanuel in overtime Jan. 26 (86-84). The Falcons closed out the regular season with five straight victories and are a perfect 11-0 at home heading into Tuesday's game.
The Falcons boast three of the top 10 scorers in the GNAC, led by junior Shyla Osmond at 20.8 points per game, followed by senior Jill Johnson at 18.2 points per game and junior Rah Rah Thompson at 16.1 points per game. Thompson is also one of the leading rebounders in the country with 14.4 boards per game, Johnson leads the team in assists at 4.7 helpers per game, and Osmond is averaging 3.3 steals per contest.
Albertus Magnus defeated Regis at Higgins Court Feb. 9, 72-60, with the Pride leading after the first quarter (21-19) and within two points after three quarters (50-48) despite missing Veasey and Martin due to illness. Osmond led the Falcons with 26 points, Johnson finished with 17 points, nine rebounds, four assists, and four steals, and Thompson notched her 17th of 19 double-doubles this season with 20 points and 13 rebounds.
Bitinaitis led the Pride with 14 points and four assists, D'Angelo finished with 12 points, six rebounds, and three assists, and Iorfino led Regis on the boards with 11 rebounds. It was a tale of odd quarters and even quarters for the Regis offense, as the Pride shot 50 percent (12-of-24) from the field in the first and third quarters, but just 19.4 percent (6-of-31) from the field in the second and fourth quarters. Regis did hit 95 percent (19-of-20) of its free throw attempts in the game, its best free throw shooting performance of the year.
This is also a rematch of last year's GNAC quarterfinal at Regis won by the Falcons, 51-49. Both Brittany Stone and D'Angelo notched double-doubles for the Pride, with Stone finishing with 17 points and 11 rebounds and D'Angelo collecting 11 points and 11 rebounds. Albertus Magnus's starting lineup played the entire game, holding Regis to three points in the fourth quarter to complete its rally from a 10-point deficit.
The winner of the Regis-Albertus Magnus game will take on the winner of the quarterfinal between second seed Emmanuel and seventh seed Colby-Sawyer in one semifinal Thursday, Feb. 21. On the other side of the bracket, top seed and unbeaten Saint Joseph's College will host eighth seed Johnson & Wales, while fourth seed Suffolk welcomes fifth seed Anna Maria.
The championship game of the 2019 GNAC Women's Basketball Tournament will take place at the home of the highest remaining seed Saturday, Feb. 23. The winner of the tournament will receive the league's automatic berth into the NCAA Tournament.