Mar 31, 2014 Phil Blackwell Uncategorized
Much of the attention among former Cicero-North Syracuse girls basketball standouts has gone to Breanna Stewart as she tries to lead Connecticut to back-to-back NCAA Division I titles, along with an undefeated season.
But there’s another former Northstar who has just put a national championship – done with a team that went undefeated – on her career ledger.
Kelsey Mattice was part of C-NS’s first of two state Class AA title teams in 2011. From there, she went to the University of Maine, but after her freshman year Mattice transferred to Bentley College, in Waltham, Mass., near Boston, who had reached the NCAA Division II semifinals in 2012, coached by Barbara Stevens, who has more than 900 career wins.
In her sophomore season (2012-13), Mattice averaged 4.0 points per game, but all of that was a prelude to what Mattice and Bentley accomplished this winter.
The Falcons were a perfect 26-0 in the 2013-14 regular season and then won the Northeast-10 Conference tournament title, twice beating Le Moyne College (79-56 on Jan. 8 at Henninger Athletic Center, 77-51 on March 2) along the way.
Then, in the NCAA Division II tournament, Bentley kept going with wins over Bloomfield (80-65), Stonehill (79-63) and LIU-Post (83-62), and took a 32-0 record into the Elite Eight at Erie Insurance Arena in Erie, Pa., where the national title would be decided.
In the quarterfinals last Tuesday, the Falcons beat Drury 74-66, with Mattice playing 12 minutes and contributing three points as Bentley took an early lead and withstood all of Drury’s comeback attempts.
Two nights later, in the national semifinals, Bentley roared past Cal Poly Ponoma 77-62, again with Mattice contributing three points in 11 minutes of game action. The Falcons used a 10-0 run early in the second half to break the game open.
And this set up Saturday night’s final against West Texas A&M. Mattice played eight minutes and did not score, but Bentley was still in danger of seeing its perfect season end at the last hurdle, trailing 60-54 with three minutes left.
Then, using a full-court press, the Falcons scored a basket and forced two quick turnovers, both of them leading to baskets as part of a string of six points in 14 seconds to tie it, 60-60.
Lauren Battista’s 3-pointer with 2:11 left gave Bentley the lead for good, and she also managed a steal and lay-up seconds later. Free throws down the stretched sealed the Falcons’ 73-65 victory, a 35-0 season and a Division II title for Mattice and her teammates.
Yet another C-NS alum, Abbey Timpano, played at Marist University this season as a freshman, helping the Red Foxes win the Metro Atlantic Athletic Conference title and advance to the NCAA Tournament, where it lost to Iowa in the first round.
Timpano played 10 games for Marist and was a teammate of Christian Brothers Academy graduate Leanne Ockenden, who as a senior averaged 11.6 points and 4.6 rebounds, and her 47 steals helped her MAAC Defensive Player of the Year honors for the second year in a row.