KEENE, N.H., 2/24/10 - The fourth-seeded Keene State College women's basketball team will face a tough task when they travel to Danbury, Conn., for their semifinal Little East Conference tournament game against Western Connecticut State University on Friday (5:30 p.m.).
Keene State (17-8) advanced to the semifinals with a 63-56 win over fifth-seed Rhode Island College, while first-seed Western Conn. (20-5) has been waiting in the wings, courtesy of a first-round bye. Second-seed Eastern Conn. (17-8), which also received a first-round bye, will go up against third-seed Southern Maine (19-7) in the second semifinal match up at 7:30 p.m. The two semifinals winners will play for the championship and the conference's automatic NCAA berth on Saturday (5 p.m.).
Not only will the Owls be facing the top seed in the tournament, but they're also going up against one of the top players in the conference: Melissa Teel.
Teel is the real deal. The junior center from Hamden, Conn., leads the LEC in rebounding (14.8 rpg), field goal pct. (.645), and blocked shots (4.8). Fifth in scoring (13.9 ppg), Teel has registered 21 double-doubles this season and has been named LEC Player of the Week five times.
Teel makes her presence felt at both ends of the court. On defense, she forces players to alter their shots. Offensively, she is a force down low. "Coach [Keith Boucher] can't stress enough how well I have to play defensively against her," said senior forward Jen Cleaveland. "It's going to be a key part of the game. If we continue to play defense the way we have the past two games, I think we can get the results we deserve."
The game features the top-scoring offense (WSCU: 70.0 ppg) against the top defensive squad (KSC: 52.5 ppg). "They are the number-one seed for a reason," said Boucher. "They are tough, and they are well coached. We're going to have to defend and rebound, and we're going to have to make some shots."
Keene State dropped both of its regular-season games against the Colonials, losing at home (60-55) and 53-44 in Danbury, when the team experienced a scoring drought late in the game.
Western Conn., which owns an 18-13 series advantage over the Owls, has won its last six meetings. This will be the fourth time the two teams have met in the tournament. WCSU defeated KSC (44-38) in a semifinals game in 1999 and in a quarterfinal match-up (64-62) in 2001. In 2007, the Owls beat the Colonials (56-40) in the semifinal round.
Keene State reached the finals in 2005 and 2007. Western Conn. has made five trips to the championship game, winning its lone crown in 1994.
A veteran team with five seniors, the Owls are looking to extend their season. "The seniors want to continue to play," said Boucher. "They're a special group that has worked hard the past four years. I'm so happy they are going to the LEC final four. Hopefully, we have two games left in us."