KEENE, N.H. 2/21/12 – There was a Sara Laudano (North Haven, Conn.) sighting at Spaulding Gym on Tuesday night. Struggling with her shot most the season, the senior guard scored a game high 16 points, hitting five of her eight three-point attempts, to lead the third seeded Keene State College women's basketball team to a 54-31 win over sixth seed UMass-Boston in a quarterfinal Little East Conference tournament game at Spaulding Gym.
The Owls (17-8) move on to the semifinals where they will face second-seed Southern Maine at top seed and tournament host Rhode Island College on Friday (7:30 p.m.). UMass-Boston, which was making its first trip to the tournament since 2009, concludes its season with an 8-18 record.
The Owls used a suffocating defense and the three-point shooting of Laudano to pull away from the Beacons in the first half.
"In the first half our defense was the difference," said KSC Coach Keith Boucher. "It got us running and we hit some open shots. "If we can have an inside-outside game going into Friday that would be really good,"
Freshman Rachael Brucks (Suwannee, Geo.), sophomore Carly Kiernan (Topsfield, Mass.) and senior Nikki Cote (Ashford, Conn.) converted steals into lay-ups on consecutive defensive plays to put the Owls up 22-7 with 5:32 to go in the half.
Laudano then went to work, hitting three baskets from behind the arc in the final four and a half minutes of the half to push Keene State's lead to 33-10. Junior Siobhan Carnell (Quincy, Mass.) capped the first half with a driving lay-up that staked the Owls to a 35-10 halftime lead. Laudano finished the half with four three-pointers and 13 first half points.
"Our main focus was to come out with a lot of energy and a lot of fire because this could be our last home game," said Laudano.
Speaking about her shooting Laudano said "I always felt if your able to come out and hit your first shot it gives you confidence for the rest of the game. "
UMB hit just three of its 30 shots from the field in the first half (10%) and committed 13 turnovers.
The Beacons scored the first five points of the half with freshman Lauren Perra (Taunton, Mass.) connecting on a long-range three-pointer five feet behind the arc. But after a timeout, KSC regrouped. Following a steal, senior Courtney Cirillo (Windsor Locks, Conn.) fed Laudano out of the wing, who buried a three-ball putting the Owls up 44-18. KSC Keith Boucher went to his bench giving his freshmen some tournament experience the rest of the way.
Carnell also finished in double-figures for the Owls with 10 points. Senior Meghan Farrell (Chester, Vt.) and Cirilo shared high team honors with nine rebounds each.
Senior Elizabeth Dow had 11 points and freshman Kirsten Morrison (North reading, Mass.) pulled down a game high 12 rebounds for the Beacons.
It was the third meeting between Keene State and UMass-Boston in tournament play. The Owls also defeated the Beacons in first-round game in 2002 and 2003.