NEW LONDON, Conn.-Sophomore Meghan Fornaro sank a pair of free throws with 11.8 seconds to play to turn a one point deficit into a 43-42 Coast Guard victory over Springfield in the Bears' regular season finale in a New England Women's and Men's Athletic Conference match-up on Saturday afternoon. With the victory Coast Guard improves to 19-6 (14-6 NEWMAC) as they clinch the number three seed in the upcoming NEWMAC Tournament while Springfield - already assured of the six seed entering the game - falls to 14-11 (10-10 NEWMAC).
Trailing 42-41 junior Brittney Zimmerman collected her missed layup with 20.5 seconds to play and kicked it out to classmate Dani Knox to allow Coast Guard to call a timeout to set up a play. On the ensuing inbounds pass the Bears would work the ball around to Fornaro who drove the lane and put up a running jumper, being fouled in the process. She would shake off a rough shooting day to knock down both free throws and give Coast Guard a 43-42 lead with 11.8 to play.
Springfield would get the ball across half court and burn their final timeout with just 4.8 seconds to go to draw up a play. The play would be a running jumper from freshman Danielle Racette that clanged off the front of the rim. Junior Jamie Waterman would bat the ball out of bounds to take more time off the clock as there would be just 0.3 seconds to go by the time it landed. The Pride would miss a desperation tip from beyond the three point line at the elbow extended.
One of the biggest stretches of the game started with 10:25 to play as Zimmerman hit a step-back 26-foot three-pointer with the shot clock expiring to turn a 31-30 deficit into a 33-31 Coast Guard lead. That sparked an 8-0 Coast Guard run which featured three by sophomore Torie Sutherland and a jumper by Waterman that saw the Bears take its biggest lead of the game at 38-31.
Springfield would answer back with a 9-0 run of their own which saw five different players score, capped off by a layup from freshman Ava Adamopoulos with 3:45 to play, giving the Pride a 40-38 lead.
Zimmerman would quell that run with a falling layup on the next Coast Guard possession to tie things up at 40-all with 3:11 to play. Coast Guard would get the ball again and Fornaro – with 2:18 to play – would hit one of her two free throw attempts to give the Bears their first lead since the 4:50 mark at 41-40. Springfield would go back to Adamopoulos who fired a shot at the backboard that rattled in for a 42-41 Springfield advantage with 2:05 to play. The teams would combine to shoot 0-for-5 from the field the rest of the way and no one would score again until the Fornaro free throws.
Sutherland led the Bears with a game-high 12 points (including 10 in the second half) to go along with eight rebounds while Zimmerman joined her in double figures with 10. Fornaro (7 points) and Knox (2 points) each had a team-best 10 rebounds on the afternoon. Fornaro and Zimmerman shared the team lead with three assists apiece.
Sophomore Heather Lewis led Springfield with 10 points while Racette dished out a game-high five assists. Adamopoulos chipped in with eight points and a team-high 10 rebounds in the loss.
Zimmerman collected her 100th assist of the season in the victory, becoming the first Coast Guard player to do that since Kira Peterson registered 160 during the 2004/05. Coast Guard is now 2-2 when shooting 24 percent or less from the field. The 19 victories are the second-highest total in school history.
Prior to the game, the Bears celebrated Seniors' Day, honoring Kaitlin Ward and Zimmerman (who played two seasons at Delaware Valley before joining the Coast Guard program).
Coast Guard will return to action when they host this same Springfield team at 7:00 pm on Wednesday, February 26th in NEWMAC Tournament Quarterfinal action. This will be the first time Coast Guard hosts a NEWMAC Tournament since defeating Clark, 56-43, in the 2008 NEWMAC Tournament Quarterfinals.
POST GAME COMMENTS FROM HEAD COACH ALEX IVANSHECK