Friday women: First four into the Dance

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New Jersey City had a very good Knight in the 2024 NJAC tournament championship game.
Photo by New Jersey City University athletics

We won’t have our Final Four teams in Division III women’s basketball for a couple of weeks, but we have our first four teams in the 2024 NCAA Tournament. New Jersey City, Brooklyn and UW-Stout joined top-ranked New York University in the Big Dance by winning their conference tournaments on Friday night.

UW-Stout finished an impressive run through the WIAC playoffs with a 77-65 victory at No. 14 UW-Oshkosh.

The Blue Devils got off to a fast start and led the entire game. Lexi Wagner hit a three just 13 seconds into the game, and UW-Stout jumped out to a 12-2 lead midway through the first period, on its way to a 43-32 halftime lead. UW-Oshkosh started the second half strong, and Kennedy Osterman’s steal-and-score pulled the Titans within five entering the final period. But the Blue Devils held the Titans to one field goal for the first six-plus minutes of the fourth quarter and Raegan Sorensen’s three-point play with 1:35 remaining put the game out of reach.

Sorensen finished with 21 points and 13 rebounds for UW-Stout, which won the WIAC tournament by beating the top two seeds on the road. UW-Oshkosh and UW-Whitewater are very strong candidates to receive at-large bids when the Tournament bracket is released on Monday.

New Jersey City beat TCNJ 65-52 behind a big night from All-American Damaris Rodriguez and dominant inside play. Rodriguez scored 26 points with a dizzying array of drives and step-back jumpers, and the Gothic Knights outscored the Lions 42-16 in the paint. Tahirah Kelley added 17 points on 7-for-13 shooting for NJCU.

Brooklyn beat John Jay 72-54 for its fourth consecutive CUNYAC title and fifth in six seasons. The Bulldogs hit four 3-pointers in the second quarter and led 37-23 at the half. After the Bloodhounds rallied within five, Brooklyn pulled away in the final quarter. Alina Estrella was named CUNYAC tournament’s most valuable player for her 16-point, 10-rebound effort.

In semifinal action, Babson defeated Springfield 64-59 in overtime and knocked the Pride into the pool of teams that need at-large bids to the NCAA Tournament.

The game featured 21 lead changes and 12 ties and came down to the final couple of possessions in overtime. Emily Flynn made two free throws that put Babson in front 57-56 and the Beavers pushed the lead to five on Kelly Walsh’s two free throws. But Springfield got a three from Amanda Leary and had a chance to tie the game after Babson split a pair of free throws. Babson’s defense denied Springfield a good look and the Pride’s desperation three fell short of the rim.

Babson (15-12, 7-4 NEWMAC) will try to get back to the NCAA Tournament by beating No. 17 Smith on Sunday. The Pioneers made 13 three-pointers in an 85-66 win over MIT as Ally Yamada paced Smith with 24 points.

Upstate New York produced a series of thrilling finishes, including two nailbiters in the SUNYAC tournament.

In the first SUNYAC semifinal, No. 25 SUNY New Paltz rallied from a nine-point deficit to beat Oswego State, 55-53. All-American Brianna Fitzgerald racked up 35 points, 12 rebounds, five assists and five steals for the Hawks. In the second semifinal, Hannah Stockman hit a three-pointer with 11 seconds left for SUNY Geneseo, and the Knights defeated the Cortland Red Dragons, 61-58.

A little farther east, Skidmore topped Ithaca 66-62 in overtime in the Liberty League semifinals. The Thoroughbreds forced overtime on Andi Levitz’s game-tying three with 16 seconds left in regulation and then made five of six free throws in the final 30 seconds of overtime to win the game. Skidmore will face Vassar for the League’s automatic bid since the Brewers defeated Union, 64-53.

The final game of the night produced one of the biggest surprises Puget Sound blasted NWC top-seed Willamette, 70-50. The Loggers seized the lead with a 13-0 run capped by Paige Gerhart’s three-pointer late in the first quarter and never trailed again. Kennedy Brown extended the lead to 18 points with a three pointer at the end of the third quarter and the Loggers rolled from there.

Puget Sound will face Pacific in the NWC tournament final since the Boxers knocked out defending champions Whitman, 58-46.

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