#23/24 Hartford Finish 16-0 in America East With Win Over Vermont

Courtesy: Hartfordhawks.com Courtesy: Hartfordhawks.com

WEST HARTFORD- It was senior day in Hartford for those who helped the Hawks win three America East regular season championships, one America East tournament championship and a first-round NCAA tournament game so far.
Of course, Diana Delva, Erica Beverly, Jenna Peterson, and Kacey Pratt hope that in two weeks and beyond they can add to their accomplishments before their careers end. “I just couldn’t be prouder of their character, all four of them, they hold themselves every single day on and off the floor,” Head Coach Jennifer Rizzotti said, “They’re great students, they’re great athletes, they’re great people and they know that even when things aren’t going their way, they’re going to be all about the team.”
One of the opponents they might have to get by is Vermont and they came to the Chase Arena for the regular season finale.
This game had no affect on the standings in the America East but somebody forgot to tell these rivals as they fought and scratched through an intense game, won by Hartford 61-51, in front of a boisterous crowd of 2,698. “They [Vermont] have good players, they have good team and it’s just hard to come out every night and play them,” Delva said, “So we just have to come out with our a-game and try to stay together.”
The Vermont Catamounts (23-6, 13-3) had locked up second place for the tournament next weekend but were looking for a statement win against no. 24 Hartford in the Hawks’ backyard, where they knocked Hartford out of the 2009 America East semifinals. Hartford (25-3, 16-0) meanwhile was trying to keep a 17-game winning streak alive and an undefeated conference record.
Hartford’s main seniors, Diana Delva and Erica Beverly, had games at the opposite end of the totem pole. Delva was brilliant with a season-high tying 22 points on 8-for-8 shooting from the field and 10 rebounds, including five on the offensive glass. “She’s hard to keep off the glass. If you’re not there early, you have no shot.” Vermont Head Coach Sharon Dawley said, “You’ve got to get there early, put a body on her and try to move her back. But we were late getting there.”
Beverly had four fouls and three turnovers in 13 minutes, as well as going 0-for-1 from the field and not scoring. But the Hawks were able to pick her up as Ilicia Mathis and Ruthanne Doherty also hit double figures, with 11 and 10 respectively. “I was sitting on the bench, I was still celebrating even though I wasn’t doing much I was the biggest cheerleader on the bench,” Beverly said, “Just to get this win, my last season and 16-0 it feels great.”
Hartford’s defense meanwhile held Vermont’s main scoring seniors, Courtnay Pilypaitis and May Kotsopoulos, to a combined 7-for-24 from the field and only two three-pointers. They also held the rest of the Catamounts in check as they shot 35% from the field. “Our goal was to take away the three-point line from Courtnay, May, and Tonya Young, those are the three guys that shoot a good percentage from three,” added Rizzotti, “And we said we really want to limit their looks because I think when you have a lead the easiest way to lose it is to give up three-pointers and I think we were pretty good about not giving them open looks.”
At the end of the first half, Mathis drove hard to the basket and fell hard on her hip. She limped off the court with help approximately two minutes after the halftime buzzer. But she came back to score 9 of her points in the second half, including a big driving layup that put Hartford up 57-51 with 56 seconds left. “I had a little bit of time to get some rest so my legs are feeling better, I’m getting back into it” Mathis said, “I’m feeling real good about these upcoming games and hopefully I can continue to contribute to my team.” “It hurts to sit right now” Mathis added when talking about the hip.
Vermont cut a 43-29 Hartford lead down to 52-51 on a great pass by Pilypaitis to Alissa Sheftic for a layup with 2:12 on the clock. But Delva scored in the post 16 seconds later. And after Sofia Lwobi missed a jumper, Delva was fouled. After making the first she missed the second, but Daphne Elliott got the offensive rebound and Hartford put the game away. “You can’t play Hartford, get them to one point, and then make three errors in a close timeline like that,” Dawley added.
The game was the last regular season home game for the top two rebounders in Hartford history. “It was great it was a wonderful way to end the season; undefeated in conference and to have the four seniors all there around me starting, so it was a really good experience” Delva said. “In the moment just thinking about what I’ve done for the program, what my coaches have taught me so it was said but it was happy because we won” added Beverly.
“I’m really proud of them and happy that they are the first team to be undefeated in the league at Hartford and be ranked in the top 25.” Rizzotti said, “They’ve accomplished a lot and I’m proud of them up to this point.”