NORTH DARTMOUTH, Mass. – Senior Lilly Shlimon scored 21 points and sophomore Hailey Derosia finished with 15 points and 14 rebounds as the Keene State College women’s basketball team avenged a pair of losses a week and a half ago in a big way, beating the University of Massachusetts-Dartmouth 63-60 in the Little East Conference tournament semifinals Wednesday night at the Tripp Athletic Center.
Keene State (3-4) fell victim to a UMD three-point shooting barrage on February 20 in Massachusetts and then a hot-shooting second half the following day in Keene as the Corsairs turned a 13-point deficit into a 15-point win, but ensured that would not happen again, this time holding UMass-Dartmouth to 32 percent shooting and 7-of-28 (25 percent) from behind the three-point line to advance to the Little East championship game for the fourth time in program history.
Keene State will look for a second LEC championship Saturday when they travel to top-seeded Rhode Island College (10-0), who dismantled Plymouth State University (1-4) – playing for the first time in 18 days – 72-20 in the other semifinal.
UMass-Dartmouth (5-4) was aiming to make it to the final for the third time in four years, but that will have to wait, as KSC had other ideas.
The Owls trailed 14-7 after one quarter, but behind strong efforts from Derosia and Shlimon, won the next three quarters. KSC was still behind 30-26 at the break as UMD shot 6-for-13 (46 percent) from three overall in the opening 20 minutes, but the visitors found themselves ahead by four just 4:26 into the third quarter following a 12-4 burst that was capped by jumpers from Arianna Hebert, who finished with 13 points and seven rebounds, and Shlimon.
UMass-Dartmouth put up five quick points to retake the lead and it was close from there, with neither team leading by more than four the rest of the way. A pair of free throws by Derosia in the final seconds of the third helped Keene State carry a 48-46 lead to the fourth. Meagan Donovan’s layup 30 seconds into the quarter tied the game at 48, but the Corsairs never did lead again, tying the game only once (at 56) after that.
A free throw by Jackie Alibrandi and a big triple by Derosia put Keene State up 52-48 with 8:17 to go, and freshman Rylee Burgess’ layup off a feed from Derosia still had the Owls up by four about two minutes later. Derosia tallied a 12-point, 11-rebound double-double in the second half alone and had four of KSC’s whopping 10 blocks in the game.
Tied at 56, Shlimon had a big response, connecting on a big three of her own to put the Owls up 59-56 with 3:19 left. A putback by UMD’s Haley Reinold on the next possession made it a one-point game again, but KSC held on, as Hebert’s runner in the lane ended a string of empty possessions and put the Owls back up three again (61-58) with just over a minute remaining.
The Corsairs went 2-for-4 at the free throw line on the next two trips sandwiched around Keene State’s missed three to get within one once more with 11 seconds left. Derosia was quickly fouled after the Owls advanced the ball and inbounded, making both for a 63-60 edge. Donovan could not connect from three on UMD’s next trip, but two KSC misses from the free throw line kept the Corsairs with hope and two seconds left. However, Shaelyn Carreiro’s desperation three as time expired was well-defended and came up well short, sending the Owls to the final.
The Little East tournament championship game will be Saturday at 7:30 p.m. at The Murray Center.
Rhode Island College has won two league titles (2012, 2014) but fell short last year, losing 49-44 at Eastern Connecticut. Keene State opened the shortened 2021 season in Providence, falling 51-47.