Women’s hoops bests NESCAC foes, has now won seven straight

Women’s basketball (11-4, 2-0 in the NESCAC) continued its hot streak this week with victories over NESCAC rivals Amherst and Trinity as well as Hamilton. On Saturday, the team came away with a convincing victory as the Ephwomen defeated Trinity 73-59.

Williams controlled the game early, running fast-breaks, applying pressure defense and crisply executing on the offensive end to secure an 18-point halftime lead. In the second half, Trinity’s powerful inside game, led by center Kate McCloskey, who went for 30 points, exerted itself, and the Bantams pulled within five. However, Williams’ greater depth and some crucial inside defense by Amy Geant ’03 allowed the team to hold on for the victory.

Head coach Pat Manning was proud of her team’s ability to win a close contest. “We came out and ran early in the game,” said Manning. “We got ahead by 18 at the half, but to Trinity’s credit, they fought back to within five and we showed composure once again down the stretch to hold on for the victory.”

Individually, Kate Stumpo ’03, who received NESCAC player of the week honors, led the team with 21 points on eight for 12 shooting. Abi Jackson ’03 scored in double figures with 16 points and collected a team-high seven rebounds.

Kerri McMahon ’05 was held scoreless in the contest but played beautifully as a point guard and finished with nine assists. She set up Stumpo, Jackson and Bridget McDonough ’04, who came off the bench for nine points, for several easy scores, and eased the work of her teammates. Amy Dieckmann ’05 also had four assists, as the Ephs finished with 21 for the game.

More than the statistics, the team’s overall execution, intensity and superior bench play made the difference in the game. Williams had a balanced and poised attack, as 10 players contributed points in the contest, and no individual played more than 32 minutes. In contrast, Trinity had a couple of workhorses inside, but the Bantams fielded only five players in the entire game, many of whom ran out of gas towards the end of the second half when the team was in the midst of its comeback.

“It is so nice to be able to go to our bench every game and get stronger,” Manning said, “McDonough hit key shots and Sarah Dickens ’04 came in and scored six points to go along with her strong defense.”

The previous evening, the Ephwomen triumphed over the Lady Jeffs in an intense contest in front of a standing-room-only crowd at Chandler Gymnasium. The 62-54 win marked the beginning of NESCAC play for the Ephs.

Williams controlled the action for most of the game, leading 31-24 at halftime, but after falling behind 40-31 the Lady Jeffs went on a nine-point run to tie the game at 40. However, in a theme that was to repeat itself throughout the contest, the Ephwomen were clutch facing the pressure. McMahon, running the point as a first-year, and Jackson, the team’s emotional sparkplug, took over the contest. Jackson’s dominance of her larger Amherst defenders caused the Lady Jeffs to converge on her in the post, from which she hit McMahon for two key jumpers to give the Ephs a comfortable cushion.

Williams led by a four to eight point margin for the remainder of the fourth quarter. In the game’s final minutes, Amherst applied a full-court press and fouled Williams’ guards in vain attempts to get the ball back; but the Ephwomen, in front of hundreds of fans, triumphed over such desperate tactics. Coming up particularly big in the clutch was Stumpo, who converted on all six of her free-throws down the stretch, en route to a 10-point afternoon, to ensure the victory.

Manning pointed to the poise her team showed as being the deciding factor in the victory. “We really needed a close game like this,” commented Manning. “All the NESCAC contests will be close games and for us to come out of the game tonight with a win speaks well for future contests.”

For the guards, McMahon led all scorers with 16 points and six rebounds in 25 minutes of action, including a crucial run of eight points in the final 12 minutes of the second half. McMahon, Stumpo and Melissa Skeffington ’03 all applied fantastic defensive pressure on the Amherst guards, combining for eight steals and forcing 22 turnovers by the Lady Jeffs. Inside, Amherst had a size advantage and out-rebounded the Ephs 40-28, but the Lady Jeffs could not capitalize on enough of their second chance points. Overall, the dominance of Williams’ guards and Jackson’s ability to carry the load for the team inside proved enough for the victory.

The emotional win over Amherst was the highlight of the team’s week, and it came in the midst of a seven-game winning streak for the team. The squad had continued the streak the previous Tuesday when the Ephwomen whipped the Hamilton Continentals (5-4) 87-61.

Williams dominated the contest from the beginning, both on the offensive and defensive ends. The team shot an impressive 60 percent from the field in the first half and held a 45-29 halftime lead. In the second half, the team cooled off some, to 47 percent shooting, but that clip, along with the team’s mastery of the contest in other areas, was more than enough for the victory.

Individually, four Ephwomen scored in double figures that evening. Jackson had another excellent night inside, as she led all scorers with 16 points on six of six shooting to go along with five rebounds. Stumpo chipped in 15 points and four assists. McDonough contributed 11 and Skeffington 10 to round out the scoring for the Ephs.

Looking ahead, the team gets most of the week off before continuing its conference action against Colby at home on Friday at 7:30 p.m. The team then faces Bowdoin, currently undefeated and ranked fifth among Division III schools, in Chandler Gymnasium on Saturday at 3:00 p.m.