Women’s basketball goes down twice in the final minute

After winning its opening tournament to begin the month, the Williams women’s basketball team dropped two close games this week. The Ephwomen first lost to Springfield at home on Wednesday 73-69 and then fell Saturday at Amherst 53-50. The win was Amherst’s first since 1997-98. The Ephs’ record sits at 6-4 after the losses.

The game against Little Three opponent Amherst was one of runs, as both teams fluctuated between hot and cold streaks. After Williams broke out to a small lead in the opening minutes, the Jeffs’ offense exploded. Led by the inside play of Sarah Walker and Naomi Sullivan and the outside shooting of Sally Hamill, Amherst went on a 21-2 run and looked ready to break open the contest, holding a 27-14 lead with just under seven minutes left in the half. Though visibly discouraged during the Amherst run, the Ephwomen regained their composure and went on a 10-0 run of their own before the half. Kate Stumpo ’03 hit two three-pointers during the stretch and Williams trailed only 27-24 entering halftime.

Much of the reason that the Ephs got back into the game was their stellar execution of both full and half-court trapping defenses. The team displayed a full-court trap for one of the first times all season, and it also swarmed Amherst’s wings in the half-court set. Rebecca Brooks ’00, Robyn Goldman ’01 and Liz Tilley ’01 were instrumental in the defense’s effectiveness.

The second half saw more of the same streaky play by each of the Little Three foes. First, the Jeffs came out firing and held a 41-33 advantage midway through the half, enjoying a run of nine straight points behind the play of Sullivan, who led Amherst with 17 points. But Williams got right back into the game with an 8-0 streak of its own behind Brooks’ dominating efforts inside. Brooks’ basket with 3:47 remaining tied the game at 45 and put her over the 1,000 point mark for her career.

With just a few minutes left on the clock, the game became a strategic one, as each possession became increasingly important. Williams looked to Brooks, but the Lord Jeffs double-teamed the center in the high post, forcing the Ephs to take more difficult outside shots which they couldn’t convert.

At its own end, Amherst went to senior guard Liza Feldman, who had seen limited action all game due to injury, and she came up big in the late going. Feldman scored the last eight points on the night for the Jeffs, her only points of the game. After knotting the score at 45, the Ephs never tied the game again, as Stumpo’s three-point attempt with seconds left fell short.

Brooks led the way for Williams, scoring 20 points on the night, 10 in each half. She was followed in scoring by Stumpo, who had 10. Tilley contributed another all-around performance of seven assists, five points and five rebounds.

Just three days earlier, the Ephwomen fell in another thriller against Springfield. Though the Ephs took out the Pride 65-61 in an early-season tournament game, the team that Williams faced on Wednesday was much improved and used its quickness to pull out the four-point win.

Williams appeared solid in the early going, getting balanced scoring from its lineup. Brooks, Stumpo, Nicole Stephens ’02, Goldman, Katie Ford ’00, and each scored six points in the first half.

At times in the half the Ephs had difficulty containing the quick Springfield guards, and the uptempo game saw many lead changes. Nonetheless, Williams was able to take a five-point lead into halftime at 40-35.

The Pride came out in the second half full of energy, running the court well and quickly mounting a 10-point lead. The Ephs made many turnovers, sparking Springfield’s efforts. However, with eight minutes remaining in the game, Stumpo hit consecutive three-pointers to cut the Pride lead down to just four points at 60-56. The Ephs then managed to tie the game in the final minute at 66. Things looked up for Williams, but Springfield guard Carah Dawe ended all hopes of an Eph win in the closing seconds.

Dawe, who scored 25 points on the night, went to the free throw line with the Pride up by two points and nailed two free throws to secure the win. Though the Ephwomen had battled back in the final minutes to tie the game, they were unable to hit big shots on their last few possessions and fell in defeat, 73-69.

Williams will hope to rebound from the losses with a full upcoming week of three games. The Ephs host Hamilton tonight at 7:30 p.m., travel to Vassar on Thursday and then head to Wesleyan on Saturday.