Photo by Vinnie Lucia

FDU WBB advances to NEC Tournament title game

FDU women's basketball rolled past the St. Francis Brooklyn Terriers, 59-40, in the Northeast Conference Tournament semifinals at the Stratis Arena inside The Rothman Center in Hackensack. Chloe Wilson dropped 23 points, Celia Carbonell netted 15, and Dahomee Forgues scored 13 points.

The Knights (24-6) were sizzling from behind the arc in the first quarter as Wilson buried three trifectas while tallying 11 points. Carbonell, in the zone from downtown, also drained two triples. By the time the period ended, FDU had led 17-16.

"Coming into this game, I knew they were going to put their big (Sarah Bandoma) on me and she's going to play in the paint, so I told myself just let it happen from outside," Wilson explained. "Just knowing where our shooters are on the court and being able to move the ball with each other and playing as team allows us to get those shots."

In the second quarter, the scoring output reduced drastically as both teams combined to notch 18 total points. St. Francis Brooklyn (11-19) dominated the points in the paint, pitching a shutout 14-0. The Terriers' duo of Bendoma and Angena Belloso each supplied nine points. At halftime, the Knights held a slim advantage, 27-22.

In the third quarter, FDU's offense caught fire with an 11-2 run in the first four and a half minutes of action. Meanwhile, the Terriers struggled mightily on the offensive end, shooting a meager 12 percent in the quarter and 1-of-8 from long range.

"They had 16 points in the paint, and we had zero," FDU head coach Angelika Szumilo noted. "We didn't do a good job playing purposefully against their shooters in the first half and allowed them more. Suddenly, they were trying to beat us from the outside, and unfortunately, those shots didn't go in."

Dahomee Forgues totaled eight points in the quarter as the Knights widened their lead to 40-26. FDU shot 50 percent from the field in the period.

Once the fourth quarter finished, St. Francis Brooklyn responded with a 5-0 to trim the margin to single digits at 40-31 with eight and a half minutes left. However, the Knights countered with an 8-0 blitz to stretch out the margin to double digits. Carbonell unleashed her fifth trey with the game in hand at the two-minute mark as FDU coasted to victory.

"I'm so proud. Third time is a charm and the last two years we came up short," said Szumilo on advancing to the NEC Tournament championship game. "This means a lot more and to be able to persevere, I'm proud of the girls. We got this done on the defensive end and made some adjustments in the second half and the difference maker."

FDU returns to action on Sunday as they host the second-seed Sacred Heart Pioneers (17-13, 12-4 NEC) in the NEC Tournament Championship Game in Hackensack, with tip-off set for noon. The Pioneers defeated Merrimack 68-61 in the semifinals.

"They're an excellent team, and we have much to prove," stated Szumilo. "Both times we played them, they scored 70 points against us. We must play defense, rebound the basketball and hopefully make some shots."