BROOKLYN, N.Y. — Coming off a 72-57 upset of top-seeded Mount Saint Mary on Thursday night, which extended their win streak to seven, No. 4 St. Joseph's College (Brooklyn) heads to Kings Point, N.Y. where they'll take on defending champions No. 3 United States Merchant Marine Academy in the 2020 Skyline Conference Championship Final on Saturday, February 29 at 1 p.m.
In addition to taking home the league title, the winner will earn the conference's automatic berth in the 2020 NCAA Division III Women's Basketball Championship with first-round action scheduled to begin on Friday, March 6.
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The Bears Road to the Final
February 25, 2020 - Skyline First Round
St. Joseph's 76, Mount Saint Vincent 68
The Hill Center - Brooklyn, N.Y. | Boxscore
Led by Lauren Quesada (Westbury, N.Y./St. Francis Prep) the Bears opened the game with a 14-0 spurt and led by as many as 21 in the second. CMSV assembled a second-half comeback behind DarNeisha Brice and Gabriella Goldman to take a one-point lead in the fourth quarter. But the Bears would only trail briefly as Quesada knocked down the next five points and the Bears held on to the lead from the free-throw line to advance to their first Skyline semifinal.
Quesada went 11-of-19 from the field and 6-of-10 from beyond the arc en route to a career-high 33 points while collecting 13 rebounds. Kelly O'Donnell (Brooklyn, N.Y./St. Edmund Prep) maintained her scoring average adding 22 points of her own, and scoring her 1,500th career point in the process. Deserae Sequeira (Clark, N.J./Arthur L. Johnson) dished out 10 total dimes while pulling down seven boards.
Brice led the Dolphins with 29 points while Aria Rheams registered an 18-point, 11-rebound double-double.
February 27, 2020 - Skyline Semifinal
St. Joseph's 72, Mount Saint Mary 57
Kaplan Center - Newburgh, N.Y. | Boxscore
A back-and-forth contest that saw nine ties and nine lead changes saw the Bears up seven at the end of the first, but down one headed into the lockers. With the Bears clinging on to a 56-53 lead with five minutes to play, a 10-2 spurt powered by five from O'Donnell, a layup from Sequeira and an and-one from Emma Kiley (Whitestone, N.Y./Archbishop Molloy) stretched the Bears lead to 66-55 with 1:20 to play. SJC held the Knights to 19 percent shooting in the fourth and outscored them 22-10 for the 15-point upset that also snapped a 10-game skid to MSMC.
On 9-of-11 shooting, O'Donnell led the way with a game-high 27 points and filled up the stat sheet with eight rebounds, three steals, and three blocks. Provino went 4-of-5 from beyond the arc to finish the game with 12 points. Also scoring in double-figures were Quesada and Alexis Breen (Union Beach, N.J./Keyport) with 10 points each. Sequeira had a near double-double with nine assists and nine boards, also chipping in five points.
For the Knights, Morina Bojka scored 21 points while Annie Keenan registered the lone double-double of the game on 17 points and 12 rebounds.
2019-20 Regular Season Meetings
January 18, 2020
USMMA 50, St. Joseph's 43
The Hill Center - Brooklyn, N.Y. | Boxscore
Behind nine points by Quesada and Samantha Wilber (Island Heights, N.J./Central Regional) the Bears held on to a one-possession halftime lead. With neither side leading by more than three in the third quarter, Merchant Marine weathered a late Bears comeback to come out on the winning side of the first meeting from Clinton Hill.
With a rebound away from a double-double, Quesada scored 14 points on the afternoon in her first game following a four-game absence due to injury. Despite collecting 13 caroms, O'Donnell was held to a season-low seven points, her only game this season not scoring in double digits. Provino contributed seven points in the loss.
USMMA was led by sophomore Lauren Hunter, who picked up a 19-point 11-rebound double-double. Julia Dahlke and Madison Demos each scored nine points. Taylor Hightower pulled down a game-high 16 boards.
February 5, 2020
USMMA 48, St. Joseph's 41
James W. Leibertz Gymnasium - Kings Point, N.Y. | Boxscore
In a low-scoring first half, the Bears led 18-17 behind 12 from O'Donnell with Quesada and Kiley combining for the remaining six. But the Mariners took the lead in the third using a 10-2 run that spanned the third and fourth quarters, to pull ahead 37-31. The Bears clawed within three on multiple occasions, but couldn't get any closer.
O'Donnell scored a game-high 25 points. Entering the game as Skyline Rookie of the Week, Kiley blocked five shots to break the single-season blocks record while picking up six rebounds and four points. Provino scored five points of her own.
Dahlke posted a team-leading 14 points while Hunter and Kaleigh D'Arcy each scored 11. Hunter matched O'Donnell on the boards with 15 rebounds.
The Bear Facts
The Bears are led by Kelly O'Donnell who enters the game at No. 9 in scoring in Division III with a Skyline-leading 22 points per game. She also cracks into the top five nationally in made free throws with 144. The junior guard became the 2nd Bear in the program's NCAA era to score 1,500 career points in Tuesday's first-round win over Mount Saint Vincent. She is the leading career scorer among all active juniors in the nation with 1,541 points and 21st among all active players.
On the boards, O'Donnell sees herself third in the conference with 10.1 rebounds per game and is one of just two players in the league this season to average a double-double. She has contributed to the team's Division III-leading 34.9 defensive rebounds per game with a team-high 6.5 defensive boards per game. The team is also fourth in Division III with 1,354 total rebounds.
Deserae Sequeira is one of the top playmakers in the nation, closing out the regular season with 169 total dimes (7th in Division III) and 6.3 assists per game (9th in Division III) and leads the conference in both categories.
O'Donnell and Sequeira are the only two Bears to start all 27 games of the 2019-20 campaign. Jamie Provino and Emma Kiley are the only other Bears to play in all 27 games, starting in all but one game due to Senior Day.
Lauren Quesada has scored in double figures in each of the last three games, including a career-high 33-point game in the first round against Mount Saint Vincent on Tuesday night. The senior is third on the team averaging 11.3 points and 8.3 rebounds per game.
With four Skyline Rookie of the Week honors to her name, Kiley averages 12.4 points per game and is the second most efficient scorer in the league connecting at a 46.2 percent clip. She also ranks in the top 10 in rebounding at 9.3 caroms per game. In just 20 games, the freshman center set the program record for blocks in a season. Despite registering a single block in Thursday night's semifinal against Mount Saint Mary, Kiley currently holds the league lead with 90 total blocks, third in the nation, and 3.33 blocks per game, fourth in Division III.
Making their fourth Skyline postseason appearance in five years, St. Joseph's enters their first Skyline Championship final in program history. With a victory, they would also clinch their second NCAA Tournament appearance having been selected as a Pool B at-large bid in 2012 — the only NCAA appearance in any sport by SJC Brooklyn.
The Bears are the lowest seed to reach the Skyline final matching the feat accomplished by Farmingdale State in 2013 and Mount Saint Vincent in 2014. But St. Joseph's is the first to do so in the Championship's six-team format that was conducted in 2010 & 2011 and from 2016 until the present. They also look to become the second No. 4 seed to win the title when Farmingdale State defeated No. 2 Purchase in 2013.
SJC also rides a seven-game win streak, which matches a seven-game streak in 2014-15 when assistant coach Samantha Retas '15 was a senior. The Bears last won eight straight as part of a 10-game streak during the NCAA tournament team 2011-12 season.
USMMA, the defending Skyline champions, entered the postseason as the No. 3 seed and made their way back to the finals by way of a 70-51 victory over No. 6 Old Westbury in the first round and a 68-60 triumph over No. 2 Manhattanville on Thursday.
The Mariners have qualified in every Skyline Championship since the 2016-17 season when they re-joined the league from the Landmark Conference.
Last season the No. 2-seeded Mariners knocked off No. 1 Mount Saint Mary, 44-39, in Newburgh to win their first conference title and advance to the NCAA Tournament. USMMA ended its season with a program-best 22-4 record following a loss to Smith College in the first round of the 2019 NCAA Division III Women's Basketball Championship.
Senior Kaleigh D'Arcy scored her 1,000th career point in last season's first-round loss to Smith. With 1,420 total points in her account, the White Plains native averages a team-leading 15.9 points per game. She netted a season-high 26 points in February against Manhattanville. D'Arcy features in the league top 10 in various offensive categories and cracks into the top five with a free-throw percentage of 78.2 (2nd), 58 steals (4th), and 34 blocks (5th).
Fellow senior Taylor Hightower pulled down nine boards in the Mariners' first-round win over Old Westbury to become the program's all-time leading rebounder and currently has 795 total caroms for her career. This season, Hightower averages 9.8 boards per game and 6.6 on the offensive glass; placing her in 4th and 5th in the Skyline, respectively. The Maryland native is third in the league in assists (108), blocks (40) and blocks per game (1.54). Her 65 steals has her in second in the Skyline.
Also, averaging double-digit points on the year is sophomore Lauren Hunter with 12.8. Averaging 9.7 boards, Hunter registered 12 double-doubles this season, good for third in the conference. She also checks into fifth place with 4.3 offensive boards per game.
Hightower and Hunter are the only two Mariners to feature as Skyline Player of the Week this season. The week Hightower earned the honor (Jan. 6), USMMA swept the conference's weekly accolades as freshman Madison Demos received a Rookie of the Week nod following her 10 points, on 8-of-10 shooting, and 10 rebounds against SJC Long Island.
Demos is in second place in the conference in offensive rebounds with 4.7. She cracks into the Skyline top ten in total rebounds (237) and rebounds per game (9.1). Demos is fourth on Merchant Marine with 7.7 points per game.
USMMA has won eight straight meetings with the Bears, their last loss in the series coming in 2002. The teams did not meet again until restarting the home-and-home series when the Mariners rejoined the Skyline in 2016-17.