By Kevin Noonan, QBSN Staff Writer
As the final seconds ticked off the clock, there was a sense of redemption and excitement amongst the Quinnipiac women’s basketball team as it defeated Saint Francis University 72-33 to win the Northeast Conference championship.
“The final seconds took forever in my mind. My assistant kept saying to me, ‘Look around and try to enjoy it.’ And I was able to,” head coach Tricia Fabbri said.
“It’s really surreal and we’re just trying to let it all sink in, this is everything we’ve talked about since we lost to Monmouth in that semifinal game last year. I think that finally accomplishing it is exactly what we wanted and I’m just so proud of everybody,” junior Brittany McQuain (Independence, Mo.) said.
Quinnipiac’s storied season lives to see another day, as the Bobcats are headed to the NCAA tournament for the first time in program history and the last season in the Northeast Conference.
“You dream of that as a little girl, growing up, it’s the only thing you want, is to see you and your school’s name in lights, on the big screen. We finally accomplished that and it’s the best feeling ever, you accomplished a goal you set since you were little,” senior Lisa Lebak (Robbinsville, N.J.) said.
“Watching Quinnipiac go up on the screen in the field of 64 is just my dream come true, so I can’t wait to have that happen tomorrow night,” Fabbri said.
The Bobcats head into the NCAA tournament as one of just five teams to record at least 30 wins on the season, having a 30-2 record, and are riding a 22 game winning streak that dates back to their final non-conference victory of the season over Northeastern back on Dec. 30.
To prove just how dominant the Bobcats victory was over the Red Flash, their 39 point victory was the largest margin of victory in a NEC tournament victory and Saint Francis’ 33 points were the fewest points scored in a NEC tournament game.
The Red Flash were unable to handle the Bobcats all game long, as Quinnipiac held Alli Williams and Rebecca Sparks, who averaged a combined 28 points per game throughout the season, to a combined five points in the championship.
“When we’re on the same page defensively we’re unbeatable, nobody can stop us. We have a passion and a fire for this game that I don’t think you could find in a lot of teams, as a whole,” McQuain said.
Quinnipiac’s offense was strong from top to bottom all game long, as it had been accustomed to all season long. Every player that stepped on the floor for Quinnipiac scored at least two points.
McQuain lead Quinnipiac offensively with 14 points and seven rebounds while sophomore Samantha Guastella (Red Bank, N.J.) added 10 points and seven rebounds off the bench. Sophomore Gillian Abshire (Washington, D.C.) controlled the point for the Bobcats with six points, six assists and eight rebounds.
Lebak also had a career game for the Bobcats as she scored six points and grabbed seven rebounds in the championship victory.
“Lisa’s been playing her best ball of her career for the last 10 games. There’s always one three she hit every game was always in a big spot, today was no exception,” Fabbri said.
Leading the way for Saint Francis was Alexa Hayward, who scored eight points including two 3-pointers made. Williams did provide great rebounds for the Red Flash, collecting 10 in the loss.
The Bobcats dominated the selections on the all-tournament squad as McQuain was name the tournament’s most valuable player while sophomore Jasmine Martin (Sicklerville, N.J.) and senior Felicia Barron (Springfield, Mass.) were both named to the all-tournament team.
As Quinnipiac gets set for an NCAA tournament run, it eagerly awaits for Monday night when it will find out who it will face in the first round.
“I think the team’s going to be incredibly excited to find out who our next opponent is. They’re going to be excited to go out and represent not only Quinnipiac but the Northeast Conference really well,” Fabbri said.
Despite not knowing who they will face just yet, the goal for the Bobcats is to put their name on the NCAA basketball map.
“We want to go as far as we can in this tournament, we want to hold our own and let people finally find out about Quinnipiac,” Martin said.
While teams across the country may not know who the Quinnipiac Bobcats are, the rest of the NCAA will at least learn their name at 7 p.m. Monday night when the women’s brackets are released.