Women’s basketball (17-7) finished its regular season with a narrow 58-55 loss to Middlebury (20-4) on the road on Saturday. The defeat drops the Ephs to 6-3 and a fourth place finish in the NESCAC, while Middlebury, 7-2 in the NESCAC, finishes in a tie for second with Bates. Williams will host its first round game in the NESCAC tournament tonight against Colby in Chandler Gymnasium at 6 p.m.
In the showdown with Middlebury, neither team was able to seize control for most of the contest. The Ephwomen did not shoot particularly well, connecting on only two of nine from behind the three-point arc. However, with a strong defense, which translated into holding Middlebury to under 33 percent shooting, the Ephs maintained a small lead for most of the game. From 6:16 in the first quarter â€“ when Williams led 16-15 â€“ through half-time â€“ when the team held a three point advantage â€“ until the latter part of the final period, the team sustained a cushion of under six points.
Unfortunately, the Panthers were able to hang around until the end of the contest thanks to strong inside play led by Alexis Hollinger, who had 18 points and 11 rebounds. Middlebury dominated Williams on the boards 43-29, grabbing an unacceptable 20 offensive rebounds to the Ephs’ seven.
Middlebury managed to tie the game at 54 with 1:21 left and then take the lead on a go-ahead jumper by Megan McCoske with 44 seconds remaining. Ephs head coach Pat Manning called a time-out and set up a play which resulted in a foul and two free-throws for Melissa Skeffington ’03 with nine seconds left.
Skeffington converted on her first free-throw but missed the second, meaning Middlebury still held a one point lead. The Ephs were forced to foul after the miss, and Katie Shutte hit both of her free throws to seal the 58-55 win for the Panthers.
Even though the team had a chance to win the game at the end, the Ephs lost the game by allowing the Panthers to hang around when they should have put more distance between themsleves and Middlebury at earlier points in the contest.
“It was a little frustrating,” said Eph co-captain Kate Stumpo ’03, “because we held a lead for a lot of the game, and we let them get back into it.”
Individually for the Ephs, Abi Jackson ’03 led the team with 17 points on 50 percent shooting and seven rebounds. Despite a cold night from the floor in which she connected on only two of nine field goals, Stumpo earned ten points by fighting to the free throw line, where she sank five of her six attempts. Skeffington managed to collect nine points by penetrating into the lane and getting to the charity stripe, where she connected on five of seven attempts.
It was a difficult night for most of the Eph guards, as all except one, Kerri McMahon ’05 â€“ who had eight points on four of seven shooting â€“ shot below 50 percent, and no player had more than one assist.
The loss against Middlebury means that the Ephs enter the NESCAC tournament on a two-game losing skid. The team faces Colby at home this evening in the first round of the tournament. The Ephs are quietly confident about the contest, as they enjoyed a sizable 19-point victory in their last match-up against Colby. Nonetheless, given the high-level of play in the NESCAC, the ladies know that they can take nothing for granted.
“We know that to make it to next weekend we have to pick up our level of play from the last two games,” Stumpo said.
The team members hope to have a raucous home crowd supporting them when they kick off their tournament run tonight in Chandler Gym at 6 p.m.