NEW LONDON, Conn. – Senior Meghan Fornaro had 15 of her team-high 19 points in the third quarter and Coast Guard used an 11-2 fourth quarter run leading the third-seeded Bears to a thrilling 68-61 win over sixth-seeded Wheaton in the quarterfinals of the New England Women's and Men's Athletic Conference (NEWMAC) tournament.
Coast Guard (16-10) will take on second-seeded WPI in the NEWMAC tournament semifinals on Saturday at top-seeded Babson at 7:30. With the win the senior class of Fornaro and Torie Sutherland are now the all-time winningest class in program history with their 64th win breaking the mark of 63 set by the Class of 2008.
Junior Gill Gerton added 11 points and a game-high 13 rebounds for the Bears before fouling out while sophomore Jill Bray had 12 points and six rebounds in the win. Fornaro also had four assists and a game-high five steals.
"We struggled to score in the first half, but our defense kept us in the game until the fourth quarter where we took over," said Coast Guard head coach Alex Ivansheck.
"Meghan has not let us down once this year, so despite the slow first half we knew in the second half we just had to get her the ball in scoring areas and I think we did a much better job of that in the second half."
Senior Kiley Shoemaker had game-highs with 24 points, 12 rebounds and six blocks while classmate Rebecca Arnone added 15 points in the final games of their careers for the Lyons.
Fornaro, who had just four points in the first half, scored all nine points for the Bears during a 9-3 spurt as Coast Guard turned a 41-38 deficit into a 47-44 lead with 3:19 left in the third quarter. Fornaro had 15 points in the quarter, hitting 6 of 8 field goals, as the Bears scored 26 points in the third quarter matching its first half total. The game was tied 52-52 after three quarters.
Senior Alyssa Almario hit a 3-pointer to start the fourth quarter before Coast Guard ran off seven straight capped on an offensive rebound and put back by junior Bekah Muller for a 59-55 lead with 6:57 left. A huge blocked shot by Muller followed by another Muller layup with 4:40 left kept the lead at four, 61-57. She hit all three of her field goal attempts finishing with seven points and seven rebounds.
"I thought Bekah Muller's block was the play of the game as it sumed up the 40 minutes," said Ivansheck. "She came out of nowhere and it showed the hustle and grit of this team that we were not going to go down without a fight."
Gerton pushed the Coast Guard lead to 63-57 on a layup with 3:28 left to close an 11-2 Bear run. Wheaton made just one field goal in the final 6:23 as the Bears advanced to the semifinals for the second straight season.
It was a slugglish start for both teams as Wheaton missed it first ten field goal attempts while the Bears made just one of their first eight.
Almario's 3-pointer with 4:31 left in the first quarter gave Wheaton a 6-2 lead. The Lyons would score the final four points of the quarter to lead 14-10 after one.
The Bears made just one of their first seven shots in the second quarter and trailed 19-14 following a free throw by senior Kiley Shoemaker with 6:56 left in the first half.
Coast Guard would use an 8-2 run to take the lead 22-21 on a pair of free throws by sophomore Jill Bray with 4:43 left in the half.
Wheaton led 27-26 at the break as Shoemaker led the way with 14 points, nine rebounds and four blocks in the opening half. The Lyons were 11-36 in the first half (30.6 percent) hitting just 1 of 11 from behind the arc.
Junior Gill Gerton led the Bears in the first half with seven points and 12 rebounds. Coast Guard shot 27.8 percent (10-36) making just 1 of 14 from 3-point range in the half.
Wheaton (17-9) had beaten the Bears 64-49 in the only meeting during the regular season on Dec. 5th and the Lyons knocked Coast Guard out of the NEWMAC tournament last year with a 85-74 win in the semifinals.
"We had been looking forward to Wheaton since December 5th because we don't think we gave them our best game," said Ivansheck. "We had a feeling we would see them again and I think that matchup as well as the corp of cadets all showing up tonight gave us great energy. It was a great atmosphere."
Coast Guard shot 36.2 percent in the win (25-69) hitting 6 of 24 from behind the arc while Wheaton was 23 of 65 (35.4 percent) from the floor while making 5 of 22 from 3-point range.