ECAC Champions! Judges knock off Westfield State, 75-65 in overtime to claim program's third crown

The 2015 ECAC Division III New England Women's Basketball Champions!
The 2015 ECAC Division III New England Women's Basketball Champions!

WALTHAM, Mass. – The sixth-seeded Brandeis University women's basketball team completed a sweep of the top three seeds today as the Judges won the 2015 Eastern College Athletic Conference (ECAC) Division III New England Tournament crown with a thrilling 75-65 overtime win over top-seeded Westfield State University in Auerbach Arena.

Brandeis senior guard Hannah Cain (Gloucester, Mass./Gloucester) was named the tournament's Most Outstanding player after delivering six of her 13 points in today's extra session. Cain averaged 12.3 points and 2.7 assists per game over the course of the three tournament games as the Judges knocked of #3 Roger Williams (63-44 on Wednesday), #2 Emmanuel (91-78 on Saturday) and #1 Westfield State. She helped the Judges to the third ECAC crown in program history, to go with titles in 2004 and 2005.

      In a game that featured eight ties and 10 lead changes, Brandeis's biggest bucket came with 60 seconds left in regulation. With the shot clock winding down, sophomore guard Paris Hodges (Southampton, N.Y./Southampton) drove into the lane and kicked the ball out to junior Niki Laskaris (Swampscott, Mass./Swampscott) at the left elbow beyond the 3-point arc. Laskaris buried her fourth trifecta of the game to tie the contest at 61-61 with 1:00 left. Both teams played strong defense on the final two possessions of the game to force overtime.

In the extra session, Brandeis outscored WSU, 14-4, and held the visitors to just one field goal with 19 seconds remaining. Cain hit a short jumper on a feed from Laskaris on the first possession to put Brandeis ahead. The Owls' Jill Valley (Orange, Mass./Mahar) hit two from the line to tie it up, but Judge sophomore Sydney Sodine (Dix Hills, N.Y./Half Hollow Hills East) gave the Judges the lead for good with a nice up and under move. Both teams came up empty on their next possession, but Cain scored a pair of driving buckets to give Brandeis a six-point cushion with 2:25 left, 69-63.

WSU missed 3-pointer on their next two possessions. Brandeis was unable to pull away until the last minute, when they hit their last six free throws for the final margin of victory.

Brandeis owned a 34-26 lead after 20 minutes. Westfield State was ahead, 20-16, at the midway point of the period, but Brandeis closed on an 18-6 run, holding the Owls to just two field goals the rest of the way. Laskaris led all players with nine points in the first half, while senior Jen Ashton (Beverly, Mass./Beverly) had eight for the visitors.

As they did in their 62-61 come-from-behind semifinal win over Keene State yesterday, the Owls did not let Brandeis pull away in the second half. WSU scored the first two baskets, on a put-back by Rebecca Sapouckey (Chicopee, Mass./Granby) and an Ashton jumper, cutting the lead in half at 34-30 just under two minutes in.

Brandeis's Maria Jackson (Rochester, N.Y./Hilton) answered with a lay-up, but the Owls scored nine of the game's next 10 points, tying the game on an Ashton 3-ball and taking their first lead of the second half on a Sapouckey lay-up. After a couple of empty possessions, Laskaris buried another 3-pointer to put the Judges back ahead, 40-39, with 13:45 left in regulation.

      That trifecta sparked a 12-2 run over the next four minutes that saw Hodges hit four free throws. The run was capped when Laskaris dialed long distance again, giving Brandeis a 49-41 lead with 9:53 on the clock. After the Owls called a timeout, they responded with a 12-3 string of their own, starting with two Alyssa Darling (Palmer, Mass./Palmer) jumpers. After a Sapouckey put-back made it a one-point game, yesterday's hero for Westfield State, Valley, made a jumper to put the visitors back ahead, 53-52, with 5:13 remaining.

      Brandeis sophomore Frankie Pinto (San Clemente, Calif./San Clemente) answered from the line, but Ashton scored the next two buckets of the game on driving lay-ups to give the visitors a three-point lead with just under three minutes to go. Pinto answered with a nice move to the tin herself, but WSU's Forbasaw Nkamebo (Amherst, Mass./Amherst Regional) converted an offensive rebound to push the lead back to three, 59-56, with 2:08 left in regulation. Pinto got to the line after getting fouled dribbling through the Owls' pressure, and hit two, but Valley answered again with 1:43 on the lock. Brandeis got an offensive rebound on their next possession, setting up Laskaris and Cain's heroics in the final minute and in OT.

      For the game, Laskaris led the Judges with 18 points, hitting 6-of-13 overall, 4-of-10 from downtown and 2-of-2 from the line. Hodges finished with 14 thanks to 10-of-13 on free throws, while Cain had 13, six in OT.

The Judges owned the boards for the second game in a row, 59-43, thanks to a tremendous performance from Sodine, who had a career-best 16 rebounds. It was the most rebounds by a Judge since 2010, with nine coming on the offensive glass. Rookie Olivia Shaw (Saco, Maine/Thornton Acad.) added nine rebounds, six offensive, and Hodges and Jackson had eight each.

Ashton concluded her career with a game-high 21 points, hitting 8-of-18 overall, 2-of-7 from downtown and 3-of-6 from the line as she played 44 of the game's 45 minutes. Thirteen of her 21 points came in the second half as she rallied the Owls back into the game. Sapouckey added 13 points and eight rebounds, while Valley had 11 points, eight in the second half and OT. Nkamebo pulled down 10 rebounds to lead the Owls. Darling finished with nine points and game-high four assists, while Ashton added four steals.

Brandeis ends its season at 16-12, WSU at 24-6.


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