MORRISTOWN, N.J. -- Chargers guard Lauren Heliger scored a game-high 22 points with 10 rebounds to lead Lancaster Bible over Saint Elizabeth, 65-57, Tuesday night in the first round of the North Eastern Athletic Conference women's basketball championships at St. Joseph's Hall.
Senior forward Sabrina Jarmolinski led the Screaming Eagles (16-10) with a double-double of 16 points, 12 rebounds and five blocks. Junior forward Kelly O'Dell also had a double-double with 13 points and 11 rebounds to go along with five steals.
It was the first-ever NEAC playoff game hosted by the College of Saint Elizabeth. The Screaming Eagles became full-time members of the conference in 2009.
The game went back-and-forth all night with 12 lead changes and nine ties, the last of which came when Chargers wing Sarah Heilenman converted a fast-break lay-up to knot the score at 55-55 with 4:09 left. Lancaster Bible went on a 10-2 run to end the game, hitting four free throws to earn the win and the right to advance to the semifinals this weekend at SUNYIT.
Saint Elizabeth took early lead with strong outside shooting at the start of the game. Jarmolinski's 3-pointer at 17:26 put the home team up 9-6. The action would see-saw throughout the first half with seven ties. One such instance at 15:39 saw Chargers guard Lauren Heliger knock down a jump shot while getting fouled. Her ensuing free throw knotted the score at 9-9.
Jarmolinski put the Screaming Eagles in front, 15-13, by hitting a step-back jumper out of timeout with 12:30 left in the half.
O'Dell had a strong first half with 11 points and three steals, including a jumper from the right corner that tied the game at 29-29 with 3:06 left in the half.
Heliger, who led all first half scorers with 16 points on 6-of-10 shooting, hit consecutive jumpers to give Lancaster Bible the 33-29 edge heading into the locker room. The visitors enjoyed a 26-11 advantage on the boards, including 11 offensive caroms.
After the chargers scored to open the half, O'Dell hit a layup with shot clock running down off a feed from Jarmolinski. Then Jarmolinski found Jade Wilson alone on the arc and Wilson drilled a 3-pointer to give CSE a 36-35 lead with 18:00 left.
Wilson followed with a defensive rebound on the other end and drove the length of the court for a layup and a three-point lead for Saint Elizabeth. After a Chargers basket, Wilson kept her offensive game rolling, driving the lane for another hoop to maintain the three-point lead.
Lancaster Bible (15-11) came down and tied the game on the next possession with a 3-pointer from Brooklyn Wilson.
Saint Elizabeth built its biggest lead of the night, a four-point advantage, on a jumper by Jarmolinski with 10 minutes left of the clock. The Screaming Eagles would hold that same lead for nearly four minutes before an 8-0 run by the Chargers, capped by another Wilson triple at 3:40.
Jarmolinski, who fought through tough defense for a 7-for-17 effort, made a steal and hit a short jumper to cut the deficit to two points at 2:37. The Screaming Eagles fought hard in the last two minutes, scrapping for seven offensive rebounds but could not get shots to fall.
Chargers hit free throws to close it out. They made 10 of 15 on the night from the charity stripe while the Screaming Eagles missed their two free throw attempts.
Wilson ended up with 10 points while Cheyenne Grant added 11 points, including three triples. Senior Anastasia Feola had seven points with four assists for Saint Elizabeth.
Saint Elizabeth was making its second appearance in the NEAC basketball championships.