Purple Knights fall in season finale

EASTON, Mass. – The Saint Michael’s College women’s basketball team was eliminated from postseason contention when it completed its season with a 71-55 loss at Stonehill College on Tuesday in Merkert Gymnasium. The Purple Knights, who needed a win to qualify for the Northeast-10 Conference Championship, end the year at 12-14 overall and 10-11 in the league. The Skyhawks land a berth in the tournament at 12-13 and 11-10. The teams entered the night tied with Merrimack College for fourth place in the Northeast Division. The Warriors claimed the other spot by virtue of winning the season tie-breaker with Saint Michael’s.

Senior Indira Evora (Somerville, Mass./Somerville) finished her stellar career by matching her career high with 23 points while adding five rebounds, playing all but 26 seconds of the second quarter. Sophomore Samantha Delaney (Smithtown, N.Y./Smithtown East) had 15 points, five rebounds and a career-high-tying six blocks, while first-year Brianna Purcell (Bedford, N.H./Bedford) scored eight points while picking up six boards, two assists and two steals. Junior Tomi Akinpetide (Sydney, Australia/Rice Memorial), academically a senior, notched five boards and three steals in her final appearance in Purple and Gold.

Stonehill held advantages of 51-32 on the glass, 26-9 on second-chance points and 54-30 for paint points. Junior Samantha Hyslip had 18 points, eight rebounds and five assists, and sophomore Maty Diabate netted 14 points with eight boards. Sophomore Nicole Rojas and first-year Kelsey Shaw both added 11 points, as all six Skyhawk scorers had at least eight points.

After Evora’s second-chance bucket 1:34 into the game accounted for the opening points, Stonehill netted the next seven en route to capping a 13-2 run when Hyslip dropped home her second consecutive basket at 4:04 of the opening quarter. The Skyhawks led by as many as 10 in the first stanza, 17-7, before Evora scored six points herself in a 7-0 run that concluded the period, cutting the deficit to three on a basket with five seconds left.

The teams traded early buckets twice in the opening 5:07 of the third period, and Saint Michael’s trailed just 21-18 before four different Skyhawks scored in a 2:57 span, and the hosts led by 11. Delaney’s jumper trimmed the deficit back to 29-20 with 57 seconds to go, but Hyslip dropped home two lay-ups in the final 36 seconds, including to beat the buzzer, and Stonehill led 33-20 at halftime.

Saint Michael’s twice cut the hole to 11 in the first 2:27 of the second half, as it trailed 37-26 on Evora’s bucket at 7:33 of the third quarter, before the hosts wrapped eight points around two free throws from junior Maddy Bennett (Montpelier, Vt./U-32) to go up by 17. Five straight Evora points later made it a 47-35 game, and Delaney’s jumper at 24 seconds kept the visitors within 12. However, Diabate’s putback to beat the buzzer sparked a 10-0 run that bridged the intermission, and Stonehill led 67-45 with 4:51 to go in regulation.

The Purple Knights rallied down the stretch, with Delaney’s three-point play being followed by a Purcell lay-in, and Evora converted a three-point play before knocking down another freebie to finalize a 9-0 run, drawing her team within 13 at 1:35. However, a long jumper by Shaw was followed by Rojas’ driving lay-up with 48 seconds to go, and Evora’s free throw with seven seconds left finished off the scoring for the season.

With 10 league victories, the Purple Knights posted their highest total since capturing 13 NE10 games in 2010-11 and doubled their total from a season ago. Saint Michael’s was predicted by the league’s coaches to finish last in the eight-team Northeast Division but instead took sixth, within one game of fourth place, despite losing leading scorer Leah Spencer (Brockton, Mass./Archbishop Williams) to a season-ending injury nearly six games ago.

Evora ends her career 20th in program history with 1,029 points and 23rd with a career scoring average right at 10.0 through 103 games, including 92 starts. One of the most well-rounded players in school annals, she is also seventh in free throws (264), eighth in steals (215), three-pointers (125) and free throw percentage (77.9), 18th in blocks (38), 24th in assists (209), 25th in field goals (320) and tied for 30th in rebounds (390). Evora has the most free throws ever by a Purple Knight guard.

Delaney enters her junior year seventh all time with 93 career blocks, but third with an average of 1.8. Her 59 rejections this season were the seventh most in program history, trailing totals put forth only by Margaret Lynch ’85 and Kelly Borch ’99, the leading career shot blocks ever at Saint Michael’s. Delaney’s block total was the highest since Borch notched 107 in 1998-99. Delaney hauled in 203 boards this winter, becoming the ninth Purple Knight underclassman ever to pull 200 rebounds, and the first since Borch in 1996-97.

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