KEENE, N.H. - The Keene State College women's basketball team will hope a third chance to play Castleton University works out better than the first two when they take on the Spartans in a 2020 Little East Conference tournament quarterfinal game Tuesday night at Glenbrook Gymnasium.
Keene State has dropped four in a row, but did enough before that, including a head-to-head win over the University of Southern Maine on February 1, to clinch a playoff spot and the No. 6 seed at 7-18, 6-10 in league play. Castleton, who lost only two home games against Little East foes in the regular season, won three in a row and five of six prior to losing to Eastern Connecticut State University 67-55 on Saturday, a win that gave the Warriors the regular season title and No. 1 seed. The Spartans finished at 15-10, 10-6 in the Little East and are 29-22, 16-16 in the two years since joining the conference. Castleton was pummeled 63-40 in the quarterfinals at Southern Maine in their first conference tournament appearance a year ago.
The Owls are led by Keith Boucher in his 31st season. He has compiled an overall record of 422-393, 344-278 in the Division III era, at KSC and won the Little East Conference tournament championship in 2017. Keene State has made three NCAA tournament trips in his time, including two (2007, 2017) in the Division III era. Tim Barrett (366-155) is in his 19th year coaching the Castleton women's team after three years with the men from 1998-99 to 2000-01. He has won 20 or more games eight times, including a program-record 29 and a New England ECAC Championship in 2012-13. CU has made the NCAAs four times since 2009, including a Sweet 16 in 2014.
Freshman Hailey Derosia, who hails from Vermont, has been Keene State's standout player for the majority of the season at 9.5 points, 5.2 rebounds, 2.4 assists and 2.0 steals per game. She has 12 double-digit scoring efforts, including a season-high 20 on 9-of-17 shooting at UMass-Boston on January 25. Junior Lilly Shlimon is adding in 7.4 points and 3.4 rebounds per contest, while classmate Jordyn Burke shoots 50 percent from the floor and averages 6.9 points to go along with 5.2 boards, matching Derosia for a team-high. Freshman Katie Martineau shoots a conference-best 42 percent from long range, ahead of UMass-Boston's Jalani Jackson (39.2) for the top spot among qualified players. Castleton, who has had three players start every game, is led by a group of four players that average double-figures, including junior Brooke Raiche's team-leading 12.5 points per contest. She adds 5.2 rebounds, 2.2 assists and 1.1 steals. Freshman Elise Magro (11.3) and seniors Alexis Quenneville (10.4) and Emilee Bose (10.3) also all put up more than 10 points per game. Senior Katlyn Toomey pulls down a team-high 7.6 boards per game, good for sixth in the conference. Magro has handed out 85 assists in 25 games. The Spartans' defense holds opponents to the third fewest points in the league (57.2), with Keene State right behind (58.2).
The Earlier Matchups
Castleton has taken all four meetings with KSC since joining the conference, including 56-54 and 54-36 decisions this season, with the former coming in Vermont in both teams' conference opener on December 5. The Owls fell into a 13-point first half hole, rallied to tie, but then never could gain an advantage and were unable to capitalize on several opportunities down the stretch while also shooting just 13-of-24 at the foul line (Castleton was 7-of-11). The second meeting saw Keene State battle back for a 22-22 tie at the break, but the Owls then scored just 14 points after halftime and shot 27 percent in the game.
The Rest of the Tournament
The winner of this quarterfinal will travel to play waiting second-seed Rhode Island College (21-4, 13-3 LEC) on Thursday (February 27) at 6:00 p.m. The Anchorwomen were the only team in the league to beat Eastern Connecticut - and they did it twice. The top-seeded Warriors will await the winner of the No. 5 seed UMass-Dartmouth/No. 4 seed UMass-Boston matchup on the same night at 6:30 p.m. The two Thursday winners will advance to the finals on Saturday at the highest remaining seed (time TBA). The league shifted postseason tournament formats prior to this academic year and will now have every game at the site of the higher seed.