In their quest for a sixth consecutive North Atlantic Conference championship and NCAA Division III Tournament berth, the one player the Husson University women’s basketball could least afford to lose for Saturday’s crossover championship game at SUNY Poly in New York was NAC Player of the Year Bailey Donovan.
But the 6-foot-3 former Hampden Academy star became ill on Friday night with a stomach ailment and couldn’t play. NAC West Division champ SUNY Poly took full advantage with a 76-57 win over the East Division champion Eagles.
Donovan, a junior, had averaged 20.4 points and 13.9 rebounds this season.
University of New Haven transfer Lyrik Jackson scored a game-high 25 points and also grabbed 11 rebounds to lead the Wildcats. She also had two assists and two steals.
Molly Burdick complemented her with 21 points, 15 rebounds, four assists and three steals and Kierra Connor produced 18 points and seven rebounds.
SUNY Poly is now 20-6 and will go on to the NCAA Tournament while Husson concluded an 18-6 campaign.
Point guard Vanessa Duarte — who also had some mild nausea, Husson coach Kissy Walker reported — managed to play and lead the Eagles in scoring with 21 points. She also had five assists and three rebounds.
Megan Peach had 18 points, 13 rebounds, three assists and two blocked shots. Lacey Scanlon and Makaelyn Porter scored six points apiece. Scanlon also had five rebounds.
Without Donovan, SUNY Poly outrebounded Husson 43-37 and had a 32-12 edge in points in the paint.
SUNY Poly used a 10-1 run to finish the first period and build a 12-point lead.
“Bailey does so much for us,” said Walker, who explained that Donovan has been able to pass the ball out to the guards when she is double and tripled teamed and they have often found themselves wide open because of the attention on Donovan in the paint.
“And she is a presence in the paint,” Walker said. “We struggled to rebound without her. SUNY Poly has two good bigs [Burdick, Connor] and Jackson had a real nice game.”
The Wildcats used a 10-1 run at the end of the first quarter to manufacture a 20-8 lead after one period and they led by at least as much as eight the rest of the way.