CASTLETON, Vt. -- The Castleton University women's basketball team erased a 16-point deficit with a final 12-2 run that forced overtime, but Eastern Connecticut State University allowed only one basket in the extra session to escape with a 61-56 Little East Conference win Wednesday evening at Glenbrook Gymnasium.
With its seventh win in its last nine games (8-3 this year on its opponent's court), Eastern (16-8, 11-4 LEC) unofficially is guaranteed the No. 2 seed in the upcoming LEC tournament, which gets underway with first-round games Tuesday. As the No. 2 seed, Eastern receives a bye into the tournament semifinals, which will be hosted by No. 1 seed UMass Dartmouth. The Corsairs won their second straight LEC regular-season title Saturday with a 60-59 road win over host UMass Boston, a team which it lost to in last year's conference championship game.
With only Saturday's LEC road contest against Keene State College (1-14 LEC) remaining, Eastern is in second place, one game up on UMass Boston and the University of Southern Maine. The Warriors hold the tiebreaker over both.
Against Castleton (14-10, 6-9 LEC), a 59-48 winner over the Warriors Jan. 8 at Willimantic, Eastern never trailed and led by 16 late in the first half. Eastern took a ten-point lead into the final four minutes but was outscored 12-2 the rest of the way, surviving two missed Spartan shots in the final seconds that forced overtime.
In the five-minute OT session, the Warriors surrendered only two points, with junior forward Mya Villard (Cromwell) and six-foot freshman forward Anna Barry (Andover) each sinking two free throws to push Eastern into the lead for good, 58-54. In the final two minutes, Villard blocked the shot of Castleton freshman forward Tessa Davenport and stole the pass of sophomore guard Brooke Raiche to help preserve the win. Junior guard Julie Jordan (Sterling) also pulled down two of her seven rebounds in the final minutes.
Villard topped both clubs with 13 rebounds and her team with 21 points, with freshman guard Julie Keckler (Trumbull) adding 12 points and four rebounds before fouling out with Eastern leading by a pair with 4:36 left. Barry had eight points and nine rebounds and senior forward Kelsey Santagata (Stamford) handing out five assists and freshman guard Jenna Serrantino (Cromwell) grabbed six rebounds. Eastern was 0-of-15 from three-point range in the earlier loss to Castleton, but Keckler canned a pair of three-pointers to open the game to spark the Warriors to a quick 10-0 lead. In the earlier loss, Keckler missed the game with injury and Barry was relegated to six minutes off the bench before moving into the starting lineup less than two weeks later.
Raiche, who totaled a game-high 26 points in the victory over Eastern, led both teams again with 25.