WALTHAM — Their last made basket, a drive through the lane from freshman guard Jane White with the shot clocking running out, came with 9 minutes, 49 seconds remaining.
And yet amazingly, Bentley, winner of 28 straight games on the Dana Center hardwood, was all locked up with upstart Dowling with 35 seconds left in Monday night’s NCAA Division 2 East Regional final.
The final possession, though, followed the same script as seemingly every other Dowling possession down the stretch: the inability of the Falcons to control the glass, and specifically, Danielle Wilson, in the paint.
The senior center put the finishing touch on her stellar 23-point evening with her 15th rebound, a putback off a Connie Simmons miss with three seconds remaining. The basket lifted Dowling to a 53-51 win, denying third-ranked Bentley its third straight trip to the Elite Eight.
“I just knew once the shot went up just to attack the board,” said Wilson, who returned to the court this season close to home (Bay Shore, N.Y.) after playing three years at Baylor, earning Big 12 All-Rookie honors for the 2006-07 season.
She has been a force in her return for the Golden Lions (28-3), who advance to play South Central champion Colorado Mesa (31-1) in a quarterfinal March 26 in San Antonio.
“We have been emphasizing offensive rebounding all season long. I just attacked, went after the ball.”
Bentley (30-2), which lit up Holy Name for 85 points Saturday night, expended seemingly all of its energy in rallying from a 17-point deficit (28-11) for a 42-42 game with 13:04 left on a 3-pointer from senior guard Courtney Finn.
“To get down so much against a team like Dowling . . . it is really hard,” said Bentley coach Barbara Stevens. “They are not going to give you anything easy. To say that we were concerned was an understatement.’’
The Falcons had rallied from double-figure second-half deficits to win at Saint Rose and in the Northeast-10 quarterfinals against Adelphi.
But not Monday night.
“We didn’t get those rebounds at the end, we didn’t finish, we had open shots that we usually make,” said Finn, who had a team-high 15 points.
Stevens was at a loss after watching the Falcons connect on just 34 percent of their shots (16 of 47).
“We could not make a shot, and at the other end, we couldn’t get a rebound when we needed to get a rebound,” she said. “I don’t know if it was fatigue. I credit Dowling for playing a tremendous game. It took everything out of us to come back and make it a game, and unfortunately, could not make a shot at the end.”
Dowling coach Joe Pellicane called the win the greatest in the history of his program.
“To be able to compete, against the best person and coach [Stevens] that I know in the game. And Bentley, perhaps the best Division 2 program in the country, what can you say. A very special moment, for the kids and the school,” he said.