Women’s hoops bounced from NESCACs

Poor shooting from the field, from behind the three point arc and even from the charity stripe translated into a 56-40 season-ending loss for women’s basketball (18-8) against the top-seeded Bowdoin Polar Bears in the semifinals of the NESCAC tournament. Earlier in the week, the Ephs, seeded fourth in the tournament, defeated Colby 63-60 in the quarterfinals.

Against Bowdoin, which had only one loss coming into the game, the team simply did not play at the level needed to knock off the conference’s top seed. Williams shot the ball poorly and was out-rebounded by the Polar Bears. Though the opposition did not play a spectacular game, Bowdoin managed to capitalize on Williams’ mistakes at the right moments.

“This was just an awful way to end our season,” head coach Pat Manning said. “We just did not play well in any facet of the game.”

Neither team played well in the first half, and Bowdoin owned a meager five-point advantage at the break with a 24-19 score. Bowdoin connected on only a paltry 31 percent of its shots in the period. The Ephs registered a slightly more dismal 28 percent, but the Polar Bears were three-for-three from three-point range, while Williams was zero-for-six.

The poor shooting carried over into the second half for Williams, whose team connected on only 25 percent of its shots going eight-for-32 from the floor, while Bowdoin improved its marksmanship to 44 percent on 11-of-25 shooting. Worse, the Ephs, who rely heavily on their three-point shooting, only made one of the 13 three pointers they attempted. Perhaps worst of all, they connected on only seven of 18, or 39 percent, of their free throws.

The Ephs could not afford to shoot so poorly and hope to knock off such a powerful opponent; though Bowdoin was not dominant, it was too strong in the other aspects of the game for Williams not to be hitting its own shots.

“Bowdoin may not have shot that well,” Manning said, “but they certainly capitalized on every mistake we made.”

Neither team handled the ball well, as Bowdoin committed 23 turnovers to the Ephs’ 18, while the teams combined for only 15 assists.

Individually, guard Kerri McMahon ’05 and center Amy Geant ’03 led the way for the Ephs. McMahon committed only one turnover while contributing 12 points and five rebounds on a respectable six-for-14 shooting day. Geant converted four of her 11 shots, including the Ephs’ only three-pointer, for 10 points and also grabbed seven rebounds.

Kate Stumpo ’03 contributed eight points but struggled on the night. Averaging almost 15 points per game in conference play entering the match, she shot only three-of-12 from the field and committed seven turnovers. Nonetheless, the feisty guard never quit; and she managed to grab four rebounds and lead the team, with Abi Jackson ’03, with two assists. Jackson, who was averaging almost ten points and seven rebounds per game on the season, also had a quiet evening, as the Polar Bears made her one of the focuses of their defense. She was held to four rebounds and four points, though three of her boards did come on the offensive end.

Melissa Skeffington ’03, who averaged 11 points a game on 40 percent shooting on the season, was also a high priority for Bowdoin’s defense, and the Polar Bears held her to only six total shots. She finished with four points.

Ultimately, the club needed to be at its best to beat the tournament’s number one-seed, and the young squad could not overcome its lack of firepower.

Earlier in the week, the team managed a narrow 63-60 triumph over a strong, fifth-seeded Colby club in the NESCAC tournament quarterfinals. Williams led by 15 points with only 3:18 left in the game and appeared to be cruising toward a comfortable victory. However, Colby managed a surprising rally and pulled within one point before Williams regained its composure to seal the victory.

Colby came out strong in the first period and held an 11-4 lead after four and a half minutes. However, Williams then went on a 12-2 run to seize the lead they would hold for the rest of the game. Williams led at halftime 35-26, led by Stumpo’s nine points and six rebounds.

Williams increased its lead throughout the second half, pushing the margin to as much as 17. However, at the 3:18 mark, the White Mules began their rally. The Ephs committed turnovers and took poor shots, and Colby capitalized on those mistakes with some sharp shooting and strong rebounding.

Hanging on to a three-point lead with 20 seconds to play and Colby in possession of the ball, Williams exhibited some outstanding perimeter defense, which forced Colby to settle for a two-point field goal with about three seconds left. Stumpo was fouled on the next possession and nailed both of her clutch free-throws to secure the victory.

The squad played well as a team in the win, as every Eph scored on the evening, and Stumpo, with 18 points and a team-leading eight rebounds, was the sole Williams player in double figures. Geant had seven points on the evening, and Manning praised the five key points that Sarah Dickens ’04 contributed off the bench.

Despite hitting only 32 percent of its shots, Williams managed to pull out the victory with strong rebounding and by forcing the White Mules to commit 27 turnovers on the night.

Ultimately, the tough loss to the highly-touted Polar Bears ends a strong season for a young Williams club. The season featured many highlights, including winning the championships of the Tip-Off Tournament and the Winter Classic Tournament. Also, and perhaps most importantly, the club waxed the floor with arch-rival Amherst twice, won the Little Three Championship, and beat one of the nation’s best teams, Springfield, on Jan. 9.

The youthful Ephs squad has high hopes for next season. The team loses tenacious senior co-captain Laura Crum, but has a strong crop of young players and a highly regarded group of rising seniors.