With the entire team together for the first time all season, the Williams women’s basketball squad held off a strong challenge from Union College and won its fourth consecutive game, 68-59. Rebecca Brooks ’00, in her first game back with the basketball team, led the Ephs with 21 points on 9-12 shooting.
Brooks, who missed the team’s first three games because she was playing goalie for the women’s soccer team, also pulled down 14 rebounds, showing her dominant presence will be important to the Ephs’ success this winter.
“It’s been a little bit of an adjustment getting back into basketball, getting back into shape and stuff like that,” Brooks said. “But it definitely feels good to be back and playing. This year has been a little different as compared to years past just because there are so many new people on the team [seven out of 15 players], and it’s sort of like getting to know a new team. Being one of three senior captains, it is important that we work to set the good example and to get the team to work hard but also to work well together.”
“When we missed [Rebecca] in the first three games, Nicole Stephens ’02 and Abi Jackson ’03 did a great job filling in, and we still need them to help out. But Rebecca is such a presence,” head coach Pat Manning said. “The guards feel more comfortable with her posting up because she’s so consistent and steady. Our goal is to get inside first and open up outside. Rebecca takes a pressure off guards, and, as you saw Saturday, Kate [Stumpo] and Liz [Tilley] were able to get good shots from outside.”
The Ephwomen began the game with good court spacing and excellent defense on Union’s two inside threats, Leah Olivieri and Heather Bennett. Brooks quickly scored six points as she easily received the ball under the hoop from the perimeter players. Stepping up to increase the Williams lead to double digits were guards Kate Stumpo ’03 and Liz Tilley ’01, who combined to hit three consecutive three-pointers midway through the first half.
Stumpo’s outside shot was on in the first, as she hit all four of her attempts, including two threes and a pair of long twos. The first-year guard led the team in scoring at the half with 13 points, helping Williams take a 37-29 lead into the locker room.
But, as the first half was highly successful for the Ephs in spreading the court and entering the ball into the post, Union clamped down on its interior defense in the second. The Dutchwomen forced many Eph turnovers and held Williams to only two points in the first eight minutes of the period.
Meanwhile, Union capitalized on the Eph miscues and charged back into the game behind the play of Olivieri and Bennett. With about seven minutes expired in the period, Union took a one-point lead at 40-39 and looked to be in control of the game.
However, Katie Ford ’00 came back right back and scored a layup while being fouled. Though Ford missed her free throw attempt, Brooks grabbed the loose ball and put it back in for two, putting Williams up 43-40. From there the Eph offense came alive with Brooks asserting herself in the middle. Down the stretch, Union struggled from the field and was unable to pressure Williams’ inside passing.
Though the Ephs only shot 50 percent from the free-throw line down the stretch, the team was able to hold on for a 68-59 victory. Tilley, the team’s leading scorer through the first three games of the season, finished with 17 points, while Stumpo had 14.
“That’s the best Union team we’ve ever seen, and after they played us close last year, we knew it would be a strong game,” Manning said. “I was happy with our defensive spurts, and we started off well. But then we had some lapses and let them back in, which is frustrating. Overall, we followed our game plan on defense. They like to emphasize their inside game, so we paid attention to that.
“Offensively, we really haven’t clicked yet, but [Saturday] we took a step forward. It’s great to have Rebecca [Brooks] back, and she was nearly unstoppable inside. Liz Tilley has been consistent, scoring more than she ever has, and Kate Stumpo has been looking to score more. Those three are really steady.”
Brooks added, “[Union] has a point guard who likes penetrate and then after she has drawn out another defender from underneath, she dishes off to the post, who is wide open for the shot. This year, we went over our defense a lot in terms of rotating so that the post would not be open for the pass.”
Before the Ephs left for Thanksgiving break, the team picked up a 43-36 win at Skidmore playing without Brooks. Williams won despite shooting 23 percent from the field, making only 11 shots on the game.
Skidmore, which entered the contest with a 2-0 record, led 23-19 at the half. However, the Ephs came back in the second half by finding ways to get to the free throw line. Though Williams shot only 57.5 percent from the line, it made 14 more free throws than Skidmore even attempted.
The inside play of Abi Jackson ’03 was also important in the second half, as she helped neutralize Skidmore’s threats in the post. Jackson also finished with a game-high 13 rebounds.
Stumpo led Williams in scoring, notching 10 points on 4-9 shooting.
“It was a really physical game, and I thought we executed well defensively all game,” Manning said. “Skidmore’s kind of a scrappy and quick team, and they can make you play another game if you’re not sharp on offense. We couldn’t establish an inside game, and they were totally able to key on guards.”
“We are a fast team and need to establish our running game from the start, and we were slow getting into the flow of it,” tri-captain Sam Daigneault ’00 said. “We had trouble connecting too. Our defense is definelty what won that game for us.”
The Ephs’ game against MCLA was rescheduled from November 30 to Thursday, February 8. The 4-0 Ephwomen have two more games before the holiday break.
The team next faces Keene today at 6 p.m. in Chandler Gym. It then travels to Babson Saturday for a tough road game. Coach Manning said she likes where the team is at this point, but she acknowledges that the team will have to keep improving to compete in the rugged NESCAC season. “I’m pretty happy to be 4-0 with no Rebecca and Robyn [Goldman ’01] for the first three games and losing three starters from last year,” Manning said.
“Our conference play in January should be the toughest part of season. We have a ways to go on offense to click and get better flow. In some ways I think we’re playing better defense than last season. We’ve been able to full-court press much the time, and we could only do that in spurts last year. I think in that regard we’ve made a big step forward.”
“There are definitely a lot of things we need to work on for NESCAC and non-NESCAC foes alike,” Tilley said. “I think a lot of the rough spots that we still have to work out are, more than anything else, the result of how young we are, and how little time we’ve all been playiong together. If nothing else though, we work extremely hard and I think that will only help us as things begin to fall into place. As far as where we are in terms of preparation, I think we might like to be a little more comfortable with our offense, but once again, that’s just the result of having a lot of new faces around so I think its only a matter of time before that happens.”