Lady Ephs post impressive win against Jeffs

Head Coach Pat Manning’s women’s basketball team (8-3) exploded towards the end of the second half to post a 63-45 blowout win over previously undefeated archrival Amherst (9-1) Saturday.

Amherst controlled the tempo early on, and going into halftime the Lord Jeffs maintained a 2-point lead over the Ephs. But in the end, Amherst fell victim to two key runs by Williams.

With about eight minutes left in the game, Sarah Dickens ’04 scored six unanswered points en route to a 13-0 Williams run to give the Ephs a 48-38 lead. Amherst responded with a crucial 3-pointer from junior guard Shannon Russell and a running floater from frosh Ali Flato that cut the Ephs lead to 48-43 with four and half minutes left in regulation.

The Ephs then closed out the game with another impressive run, racking up 13 points while allowing Amherst only two. The Ephs’ final run included a perfect 10-of-10 from the charity stripe. Melissa Skeffington ’03 shone in the waning minutes hitting a clutch three while racking up five points and two rebounds in the last minute-and-a-half.

A few components of the game allowed the Ephs to turn a halftime deficit into an easy win over archrival Amherst. The firstkey aspect was turnovers: the Lady Jeffs lost the ball a troubling 22 times, whereas the Ephs amassed only 13 turnovers.

Secondly, though Amherst was undefeated coming into Williamstown partly due to strong inside play, the Jeffs struggled on the boards down the stretch. In the first half, Amherst was a formidable presence in the post and they finished the game with nine blocked shots and 48 boards behind strong play from 6’3″ forward Caitlin Farrell.

But foul trouble plagued the paint for Amherst and left the Lady Jeffs to manage with a depleted post for much of the second half.

Lastly, the Lady Jeffs’ senior point guard, Sara Bozorg, was utterly ineffective, scoring no points despite playing all 40 minutes of the game. Anytime a team’s starting point guard’s leading statistic is turnovers (eight for Bozorg) it is difficult to expect anything other than defeat.

The Ephs’ starting guards, Kerri McMahon ’05 and Kate Stumpo ’03, played especially well. McMahon posted a double-double (13 points and 10 rebounds) and had four steals in her 36 minutes of play. What is not in the box score, however, is how McMahon’s cuts to the basket produced opportunities for players like Skeffington to hit open outside shots.

Stumpo had 14 points, six rebounds and eight assists at the point. She posted an impressive 4.0 assist-to-turnover ratio which dwarfs the .38 ratio of her Lady Jeff counterpart, Bozorg. Although Stumpo only shot 38 percent from the field, she hit all her free throws to help lead the Ephs to victory.

As the late Laker broadcaster Chick Hearn would have been likely to say, someone left a door open at Chandler Gymnasium and a cool breeze kept both teams from finding the basket as the Ephs and Lady Jeffs shot combined to shoot under 30 percent.

Colleen Hession ’06 was held scoreless for the first time in her Williams career. Hession shot an uncharacteristic 0-for-3 from 3-point-land, but it should be noted that her attempted three pointers were all from the NBA-like distance.

“I just couldn’t get into a groove, especially from that far out,” Hession said. “I kept looking over at coach [Manning], and she just told me to keep hoisting ’em up.”

But despite poor shooting by both teams, the atmosphere in Chandler was electric where an estimated 1,200 fans showed up to cheer the Ephs to victory. “This was my first-hand taste of the Williams-Amherst rivalry and the energy was just incredible,” Hession said. “I only hope all our games against them end with such success.”

The Ephs are now riding a four-game win streak.

Earlier in the week, the team beat Springfield College 65-56 for Manning’s first win in Springfield over her 12-season tenure at Williams.

Skeffington lead the Ephs with 19 points and shot 3-of-8 from behind the three-point line.

“Melissa was awesome all-around tonight,” Manning said. “This was a huge win for us.”

The Ephs suffered a sluggish start on the offensive end and managed only a 27-26 lead going into the break, but the second half was highlighted by strong defense and consistent shooting by the Ephs.

Hession and Emma Golden ’06 provided sparks off the bench as the two frosh combined for 12 points.

Springfield was hot coming into last Wednesday’s game as the Pride had just defeated nationally-ranked Southern Maine. Forward Kacey Wunsch led the Pride with a double-double (15 points, 12 boards) and guard Kelly McComber dished out a team-high eight assists. But McComber and Wunsch’s contributions were not enough to foil the Ephs’ tight defense.

Manning insists that defense is critical to the Ephs’ success; so as long as the Ephs play defense as well as they did last Wednesday, expect the victories to keep piling up.

Skeffington was also named NESCAC Player of the Week. Over the past three games she has averaged over 17 points, which is well above her season average of 13.2 ppg. The Ephs have yet to lose when Skeffington leads the team in scoring.