SPRINGFIELD, Mass., February 26, 2006 – Springfield College senior center Erin Schwartz (Milford, Conn.) led all scorers with 19 points on 9-of-13 shooting from the field to go along with seven rebounds as the top-seeded Pride edged No. 2 Mount Holyoke, 57-51, in Sunday afternoon’s New England Women’s and Men’s Athletic Conference (NEWMAC) Women’s Basketball Tournament Championship game.
For SC, which improves to 22-6 overall on the season, it is the Pride’s second-straight NEWMAC Tournament Title and fifth of the past six years as SC has earned an automatic bid into the 2006 NCAA Division III Women’s Basketball Championship. The Pride will learn of its tournament seeding and opponent early Monday morning, February 27.
Mount Holyoke falls to 20-6 overall on the season as SC has beaten the Lyons three times on the year by a combined total of just 15 points. Senior forward Courtney Parvin (Brackney, Pa.) and sophomore guard Christine Cotter (Stoughton, Mass.) each added 11 points in the win, as freshman center Lauren O’Connor (Valhalla, N.Y.) came off the bench to grab a game-high 10 rebounds while chipping in with eight points.
Mount Holyoke was led by junior guard Angela Astuccio with a solid performance of 18 points, six rebounds, four assists and three steals. Senior center Jonee Billy added 14 points, seven rebounds and three assists.
SC opened up the game on a tear, outscoring Mount Holyoke 11-2 in the first six minutes of action to take the early lead. After O’Connor made the score 17-7 in favor of the Pride with 9:32 left in the opening half, the Lyons responded, going on a 15-0 run to take a 22-17 lead with 4:57 to go in the stanza capped by a jumper from senior forward Jeanne Powers. The two teams traded baskets the rest of the half, as Mount Holyoke went into the locker room with a three-point advantage (26-23).
SC started the second half much like it did to open the game, going on a 10-2 run as the Pride regained the lead, 33-28, with 16:36 left in the contest. Once again the Lyons battled back, taking a 38-33 lead with 12:28 to go on a three-pointer from Astuccio. Mount Holyoke continued to lead throughout most of the second stanza, but SC kept the game well within reach, never falling behind by more than six points.
Schwartz was huge down the stretch for the Pride, as she netted SC’s final three field goals of the game to help clinch the NEWMAC Final. The senior co-captain pulled the Pride to within one, at 49-48, with 4:02 left in the contest, and after tying the game at 49 apiece with just 1:46 to go on a free throw, Schwartz netted two field goals to put SC up for good, 53-51, with just 34 seconds left.
On Mount Holyoke’s next possession, the Lyons turned the ball over, with 22 seconds left, and then fouled junior point guard LaToya Franklin (Latham, N.Y.) with 17 seconds remaining. Franklin calmly sank the two free throws to give the Pride a two-possession lead (55-51). After Mount Holyoke missed a three-point try, Parvin snatched the defensive board and was then fouled with 10 seconds left. The senior co-captain put the game out of reach, nailing both free throws to make the score 57-51.