The NYIT women's basketball team experienced distinctly different emotions during the last two games of the East Coast Conference Tournament. Less than 24 hours after erasing a 20-point halftime deficit and beating top-seeded District of Columbia, the Bears could not hold a 16-point lead with 9:16 to play and lost to Queens, 65-63, in Sunday's championship game at LIU Post.
Queens (22-7), behind MVP Madison Rowland, earned the automatic bid to the NCAA Division II Tournament. NYIT (20-11) is on the bubble. Rowland scored 28 of her 38 points in the second half and totaled 13 rebounds.
"It hurts to come out on the bottom,'' said sophomore guard Shanice Allen, who had 14 points. "But we tried hard, we fought to the end. We realized going into halftime that no matter how deep the hole is, anybody could come back, so we kept that in the back of our minds.''
A three-pointer by Nina Vukosavljevic (15 points) gave NYIT a 60-45 lead with 6:29 to play before Queens went on a 20-3 run en route to its second conference title.
Queens trimmed the deficit to nine -- getting under double digits for the first time in the half -- when MacKenzie Rowland (15), Madison's sister, hit a jumper with 2:40 left. Madison Rowland made two free throws and a layup as Queens moved within 62-57 with 1:48 left.
Elisabeth Gully's free throw made it 62-58 with 35 seconds to play and Madison Rowland's jumper closed the gap to two with 25 seconds left.
After an NYIT turnover, Madison Rowland was fouled as her layup fell through the basket, and she converted the three-point play for a 63-62 lead with 19 seconds to play. It was Queens' first lead since early in the first half. Joya McFarland added two free throws with 11 seconds remaining.
NYIT's last chance came when freshman Kristen Kelly was fouled on a three-point try with five seconds left and was awarded three free throws. She missed the first, made the second, then tried to bounce the ball off the rim in hopes of regaining possession, but the ball went back to Queens on a dead-ball rebound.
Queens shot 43.8 percent in the second half, when it also made 12 of 15 free throws.
NYIT coach Anthony Crocitto hopes the NCAA committee will take a long look at his team's credentials.
"We beat UDC twice, we beat Queens, we beat Holy Family, who has an automatic bid,'' he said.
If not, he has key players returning next season, including Dina Ragab, Vukosavljevic, Shannon Duer and Julie Williams. Said Crocitto, "I think the experience of making it to the final is impressive.''