By Matt Leon

PHILADELPHIA (CBS) — After going 26-5 and advancing to the championship game of the Central Atlantic Collegiate Conference Tournament, the Jefferson University women’s basketball team is headed to the Division II NCAA Tournament.

The Rams are the #7 seed in the East Region and they will open up against the #2 seed Bentley on Friday up in Easton, Massachusetts.

This success for the Rams comes a season after they finished a game under .500 for just the second losing season in Tom Shirley’s 29 years at the helm of the program.

“I thought we exceeded expectations [this season], probably matured a year in advance,” Shirley tells KYW Newsradio. “Very proud of what they accomplished.”

The Rams made it clear very early that they were going to be a force in the region, starting 6-0 and 12-1. Shirley says the team’s amazing chemistry is a big reason why they are still playing here in March.

“They get along,” he says. “They hang out together, they play well together, they communicate and they share the ball. I think when you realize that your three top players, if you go by all-conference selections, all averaged [around] 12 points, that speaks volumes for me.”

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Jefferson has six players averaging at least eight points with redshirt sophomore guard Alynna Williams (second team All-CACC) leading the way at 13.2. Redshirt junior guard Jess Kaminski (second team All-CACC) checks in at 12.3 ppg and also leads the team in rebounding (8.1 a game) and assists (3.5 a game). Senior guard Rachel Day (third team All-CACC) pours in 11.7 points per night and she is the program’s all-time leader in three-point baskets.

The Bentley team Jefferson has drawn in the tournament opener brings a 27-3 record into the tournament and the Falcons are the champions of the Northeast-10. Shirley says they are a premier program.

“20 Northeast-10 Championships, 34 NCAA bids – which is a Division II record,” Shirley says. “A 1,000-win coach in Barb Stevens, who is also a member of the [Women’s Basketball] Hall of Fame. So it’s a huge task for us because it’s a program that has so much history.”

The winner on Friday faces the winner of University of the Sciences and LIU-Post in the second round on Saturday.

Friday’s game gets underway at 2:30pm.

You can follow Matt on Twitter @MattLeon1060.

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