CAMBRIDGE, MA – What Lesley University thought would be a good primer for the New England Collegiate Conference playoffs ended up just that, as the Lynx topped Little East opponent Plymouth State, 61-52 in non-conference women's basketball play.
Lesley (14-10) forward Rachael O'Mara (Levittown, NY/MacArthur) led all scorers with a career-high 32 points – one shy of a Lynx record – to go with seven rebounds in just under 40 minutes played as Lesley won its third straight.
For Plymouth State (8-16), Sam Monohon (Auburn, NH/Manchester Trinity) scored her team-high 12 points on 6-8 shooting in 18 minutes.
A Kristen Crotts (Danville, NH/Timberlane) layup gave Plymouth State a 2-0 lead before O'Mara scored six straight to start a 16-0 run, which would ultimately be the difference in the game. Layups from Kaitlyn Wechsler (Merrick, NY/Our Lady Mercy) twice upped the Lynx lead to 16, and a Cassidy Freed (Brattleboro, VT/Brattleboro Union) and-one layup just before the halftime buzzer sounded, sending the Lynx into halftime with a 40-20.
Aside from the team's 16-0 run that spanned 6:29, Lesley built its 20-point halftime lead with defense, rebounding and the hot hand of O'Mara, who shot 7-11, hit both of her three-point attempts and led all scorers with 16 points at the break. Led by seven first-half rebounds from center Brianne Caira (Pelham, NH/Pelham), the Lynx dominated the glass at a 26-16 clip and held the Panthers to 25 percent shooting (8-32).
After an O'Mara layup upped the lead to 22 out of halftime, Kellie Walsh (Londonderry, NH/Londonderry) then scored four points in a 10-0 Panthers run that cut the margin to 12. Clinging to a 12-point lead and with the shot clock expiring, O'Mara answered the toll, hitting a crucial triple to up the lead to 15 at the 11:00 mark.
Out of a Lynx timeout, a long O'Mara two-pointer gave Lesley a 59-43 lead inside the 6:00 juncture, which was when things got interesting.
Back-to-back interior give and go passes from Amanda Kania (Manchester, NH/West) found Monohon for reverse layups. After a Colleen O'Hara (Otego, NY/Unatego) layup made it a 10-point game, the sophomore forward connected on a long three-pointer to cap a 9-0 run and pull the Panthers to within seven, at 59-52 with 3:23 to play.
O'Mara again responded, connecting on a jumper to increase the lead to nine, 61-52, at the 2:00 mark. Lesley shot 0-3 at the line down the stretch, but its defense carried the team down the stretch, holding Plymouth to 0-7 shooting over the final 3:00.
For the second half, the Panthers shot 40 percent (14-35), but Lesley's defense was there down the stretch, and O'Mara stayed equally as hot throughout the second, pouring in another 16 for her game-high 32, one point short of Kaitlyn Wechsler's school record.
Wechsler, meanwhile, grabbed a game- and season-high 13 rebounds to compliment her 13 points. Freed, who entered the game second in the NECC in assist-to-turnover ratio, dished out a game-best seven assists to only two turnovers, and Caira pulled down 12 boards to go with three blocks.
The Lynx play host to NECC rival Daniel Webster Saturday at 6 p.m. on Senior Night in Cambridge, while Plymouth State takes on Rhode Island College on Saturday.