Sixth-seeded Brandeis women advance past #3 Roger Williams, 63-44, in ECAC Quarterfinals

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BRISTOL, R.I. -- The Brandeis University women's basketball never trailed tonight, using a 21-3 run midway through the second half to blow open a close game, as the sixth-seeded Judges upset the third-seeded Roger Williams University Hawks in the quarterfinals of the Eastern College Athletoc Conference (ECAC) Division III New England Women's Basketball Tournament.

The Judges raced out to a 9-2 lead thanks to five early points by sophomore guard Frankie Pinto (San Clemente, Calif./San Clemente). It was their largest lead of the first half, but Brandeis never fell behind.

The Hawks got within one point on three different occasions, but on two of those, the Judges answered with a 3-pointer. Junior Niki Laskaris (Swampscott, Mass./Swampscott) connected from deep after a Lisa Lutz jumper at the 7:52 mark to make it a 17-13 game, while classmate Heather Cain (Gloucester, Mass./Gloucester) dialed long distance with 1:11 to go to make it 26-22 after RWU's Emma Klis had done the same.

Both teams hit two free throws down the stretch to make it a 28-24 edge for the Judges at halftime. Heather and senior sister Hannah Cain (Gloucester, Mass./Gloucester) each had seven points in the first half to lead all scorers, contributing half of Brandeis's offense. Lutz and Rachel Battista each had five points for the home team.

Roger Williams opened the scoring in the second half on a bucket by Teagen Dunn. Brandeis scored the next three points before RWU's first-team All-Conference guard Angelica Ariola hit back-to-back buckets to get the hosts within one again, 31-30, with just under two minutes gone.

Brandeis answered again with three points, as Pinto converted a traditional three-point play. Ariola hit two more free throws to make it a 34-32 contest with 17:21 remaining. 

At that point, the Judges went on the game's decisive run. They held RWU to just one field goal over the next 10 minutes, outscoring the Hawks by a 21-3 margin over that span. Sophomore guard Paris Hodges (Southampton, Mass./Southampton) scored seven points in the run, while rookie center Olivia Shaw (Saco, Maine/Thornton Acad.) had six. With a 55-35 lead and seven minutes remaining, the Judges coasted to the win from there. 

Pinto led all players with 15 points, 10 of which came in the second half. Hodges added 10 points, while Jackson had nine. The Judges were terrific on defense, holding Roger Williams 18 points below their season scoring average and dominating the boards, 47-26, including 21-7, on the offensive glass. It was even more pronounced in the second half, when the edge was 24-9. Sophomore forward Sydney Sodine (Dix Hills, N.Y./Half Hollow Hills East) grabbed a career-high 12 caroms, while Shaw had eight and Hodges seven. Laskaris and both Cain sisters had two assists for the Judges. 

RWU had three players tie for team-high honors with eight points - Ariola, Dunn and Battista. Klis and center Bridget Quilty each had three assists, a game-high. Quilty also added four blocked shots and two steals. Dunn led the Hawks with six rebounds. 

With the win, the Judges improve to 14-12 and advance to the ECAC tournament semifinals for the second year in a row with an upset. Roger Williams sees its 2014-15 season come to a close at 19-8.

Because of conflicts on other campuses, Brandeis will play host to the rest of the ECAC tournament this weekend. One semifinal will pit the Judges against second-seed Emmanuel College (63-53 over Curry tonight) Saturday at 1 p.m., while top-seeded Westfield State College (68-62 over Western New England) will meet fifth-seeded Keene State (61-58 over Norwich) at 3:30 in the second semifinal. The winners will meet Sunday at 1 p.m.