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No. 3 Firebirds Fall to No. 6 Franklin Pierce, 78-66 in NCAA Division II East Regional Quarterfinals

3/16/2015, 6 a.m. | Updated on 3/15/2015, 6:21 p.m.
The Firebirds struggled in their half-court offense but did force 23 Ravens turnovers as they scored more than half of ...
Telisha Turner was 5-of-9 from long range as she finished with 20 points. (Courtesy UDC Firebirds)

— The No. 3 seeded University of the District of Columbia women's basketball team was upset by No. 6 Franklin Pierce, 78-66 in Friday afternoon's NCAA Division II East Regional Quarterfinals at Adelphi's Center for Recreation.

The Firebirds, ranked No. 22 in the USA Today national poll and seeded the highest in the NCAA Tournament they had ever been since it went to a 64-team format, ended the season with a record of 25-5. Along the way they won the school's first East Coast Conference Regular Season Championship and set a program record for wins in a season.

Franklin Pierce (19-10) of the Northeast-10 Conference will advance to play the winner of today's No. 2 New Haven vs. No. 7 Philadelphia game in tomorrow night's semifinal round. The Ravens improved to 2-0 in the all-time series vs. UDC.

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(Courtesy UDC Firebirds)

Telisha Turner was 5-of-9 from long range as she finished with 20 points.

UDC was led by the East Coast Conference Defensive Player of the Year and First Team Daktronics All-East Region honoree, senior Denikka Brent (Mechanical Engineering – Chesapeake, VA/Booker T. Washington HS), who packed the stat sheet with 21 points, nine rebounds, seven steals, two blocked shots and two assists. Second Team All-ECC selection Telisha Turner (Criminal Justice – Wilmington, DE/Harcum) also added 20 points while shooting 5-of-9 from three-point range.

The Ravens, returning to the NCAA Tournament after a one-year absence in 2013-14, dominated the rebounding battle on the strength of NE-10 Honorable Mention forward Jessica Hurd's double-double of 19 points and 13 rebounds and NE-10 First Team forward Kara Charette's game-high 23 points and eight rebounds. FPU also featured terrific outside shooting by guards Natalie Bastian (22 points) and Jemma Thacker (nine points), who combined to shoot 9-of-14 from three-point range.

The Firebirds struggled in their half-court offense but did force 23 Ravens turnovers as they scored more than half of their points off of those turnovers and fastbreak opportunities. Also, UDC's bench, an integral part of the Firebirds' success this season, contributed a mere six points today.

Franklin Pierce out-shot UDC 53-percent to 37-percent from the field and 45-percent to 38-percent from three-point range. The Ravens also had a 28-24 scoring advantage in the paint, 13-11 edge in second-chance points, and had 24 assists to just eight by UDC.

Junior guard Iman Scott and Turner both knocked down three-pointers in the opening 1:10 of play and later Brent added back-to-back buckets as the Firebirds raced out to a 10-4 start and forced a FPU timeout at the 17:40 mark. Out of the timeout, however, the Ravens responded with a 22-6 surge highlighted by three, three-point field goals by Bastian and seven consecutive points scored by Charette, as FPU pulled in front 26-16 at the 10:29 mark.

FPU still led 37-26 at the 3:17 mark, but Turner scored five points during an 8-4 UDC mini-surge to end the half which pulled the Firebirds within seven, 41-34 at intermission.

The Ravens wasted no time taking control of the game in the second half as they opened the closing period on a 12-3 run to open up a 16-point lead, 53-37 near the 16-minute mark. Brent scored two baskets in a row and junior point guard Shantrel Oliver (Criminal Justice – Columbia, MD/Chesapeake CC) converted an off-balance, running jumper in the paint as part of a 6-0 run to cut the Firebirds' deficit to 10 at the 13:44 mark, but Thacker knocked down two three-pointers and Bastian added another during an 11-2 Ravens run to extend their lead to 64-45 at 10:15.

FPU's lead grew to as much as 21 with 6:45 remaining, but Brent scored eight consecutive points during a 10-0 Firebirds surge to slice the lead to 11 (71-60) with 3:01 to play. A 6-0 response by the Ravens sealed the victory as FPU went on to win comfortably by a 12-point margin.