Three seniors were honored before Saturday’s women’s basketball game against Central Connecticut. But these weren’t just any seniors. The team is losing its Division I leading scorer, a player who ranks seventh in Division I scoring, and its career steals leader.
In an emotional ceremony, Erin Kerner, Mandy Pennewell and Brianna Rooney accepted flowers and posed for pictures with their families.
It should be no surprise that this trio was influential in leading the Bobcats (17-10, 10-7 NEC) to a 79-68 victory over Central Connecticut (17-11, 12-5 NEC) at the TD Banknorth Sports Center.
Kerner scored a game-high 23 points, while Pennewell and Rooney each scored 16 points. Pennewell added 12 rebounds to record her second double-double of the season.
“There’s no secret to our success,” head coach Tricia Fabbri said. “These three kids really put it together at the right time for us.”
Central Connecticut took an early 3-2 lead with 18:35 remaining in the first half. That marked the only time they were ahead of the Bobcats. Quinnipiac then took a quick 14-6 lead after six-and-a-half minutes, with Pennewell scoring eight of those points. Central then went on an 8-0 run to tie the game at 14 with 9:58 remaining in the first half. A little more than a minute later, the game was tied at 17. That is when the Bobcats were able to finally put the game away.
Over the next four minutes after the game was tied, the Bobcats took a 12-point lead – the largest of the half – before going into halftime with an 11-point lead.
Quinnipiac played stifling defense in the half, allowing only six made field goals from the Blue Devils. However, nine Quinnipiac fouls resulted in 14 free-throw attempts for CCSU, of which they made 11, to keep the game relatively close.
Pennewell led the team with 10 points and six rebounds in the first 20 minutes of play.
Quinnipiac was able to expand on its lead early in the second half. Six minutes in, the Bobcats were up by 18, and the lead even reached 20 with 10 minutes remaining.
However, Central woke up, cutting the lead to eight with a little more than two minutes remaining in the game. They scored 10 points off Bobcat turnovers in the half and shot 50 percent from the field, making three times as many shots as they did in the first half.
Quinnipiac was able to hold on, hitting 10 straight free throws to ice the game and ultimately win by 11 points.
The victory extends Quinnipiac’s winning streak over Central Connecticut to 17. The Bobcats have also won three games in a row overall nearing the end of the regular season.
“As a unit, we have really started to evolve and gel at the right time,” Fabbri said. “That’s really significant at the end when you’re looking up. It’s really been a nice combination of team and individuals playing really well at the right time of the year, and it’s really nice to see us put this together right now.”
Quinnipiac will play in the NEC quarterfinals on Saturday at 7 p.m. If they win that game, they will play in the semifinals, held the next night.