Bridgeport, Conn. - The NYIT women's basketball team earned the East Coast Conference's automatic bid to the NCAA Tournament and claimed the program's first-ever postseason title with a 80-60 win against LIU Post on Sunday afternoon at the University of Bridgeport's Harvey Hubbell Gymnasium.
The Bears now await the 10 p.m. selection show on NCAA.com to learn their opening-round opponent in Friday's East Regional.
NYIT (23-8) had earned a regular-season ECC title in 2015-16, but had never won a league postseason championship.
Head coach Kenny Parham took over the program the following season and has now led the Bears to two NCAA Tournament appearances in three seasons at the helm.
The Bears entered the ECC tourney as the No. 3 seed, while LIU Post — an upset winner against top-seeded St. Thomas Aquinas on Saturday — was the No. 4 seed.
On Sunday, NYIT built a 31-17 second-quarter lead. But the Pioneers chiseled their deficit to four points during that quarter.
No matter. The Bears erupted after intermission, turning a 35-29 halftime advantage into a 20-point bulge entering the final quarter.
First-team All-ECC selection Meg Knollmeyer led the Bears with her 12th double-double of the season, tallying 17 points and 10 rebounds.
Knollmeyer was named tournament MVP, while Shalie Frierson and Ketsia Athias joined her on the all-tourney team.
The ECC championship game proved a fitting setting for the final women's basketball Battle of the Boulevard matchup.
Long Island University administration announced earlier this academic year that the athletics on its Brooklyn and Brookville campuses would merge and that women's basketball would compete solely as a member of the Division I Northeast Conference and be based in Brooklyn in 2019-20 and beyond — effectively ending the D-II program on Long Island.
Meanwhile, NYIT had raced to a 17-3 record this season. But a glut of injuries at one point depleted the squad to the point in which the Bears dressed only six players for consecutive conference games in late January. The Bears had opened the season with 16 healthy players.
The litany of injuries contributed to a late swoon. NYIT won only three of its final eight regular-season games, including a buzzer-beating loss to LIU Post in the finale at Recreation Hall.
Yet NYIT began getting players back — first point guard Zoe Amalbert, then first-team All-ECC selection Meg Knollmeyer, then Jill Spagnuola and Julia Braungart, and finally Corinn Baggs. And when the ECC playoffs began, NYIT topped sixth-seeded Bridgeport in the quarterfinals, then ousted No. 2 Daemen in the semifinals, followed by the Pioneers in the finals to punch a ticket to the Big Dance.
"I am so proud of these young ladies and their dedication to the team and each other," Parham said. "Our chemistry has been awesome all year, which helped us through all of the adversity with the injuries. They played for each other every day. And, as a result, they are the first women's basketball team in NYIT history to win a conference tournament. I'm very happy that all of their hard work has paid off.
Provided by te NYIT Sports Information Department.