Women’s basketball downs Amherst

If two programs heading in opposite directions converge at LeFrak Gymnasium, what is the result?

The first team is made up of the Ephwomen and they have been hot as of late, winning eight of their last games, with most of them being blowouts.

The second team is Amherst, who has lost seven of their last eight, after starting the season with eight straight wins.

The Lady Jeffs failed to rise to the occasion and were blown out by the Ephwomen for a second time this season, 64-48.

On January 11, the Lady Jeffs came to Williamstown with a record of 8-0. Since then their only win came against Smith, a team the Ephwomen dismantled by 24 points.

The Ephwomen suffered their last loss on December 19, 2002. Since then the team has built a nine-game win streak and has seen such magical moments as Kate Stumpo ’03 scoring her 1,000th career point and the sweeping of their NESCAC nemesis, the Lady Jeffs.

Williams has now won five straight over Amherst, and has improved the all-time series to a 31-21 Williams advantage. Head Coach Pat Manning has posted an impressive 20-6 record against the Lady Jeffs over her thirteen year tenure.

And although the Lady Jeffs managed to open with a small lead early in the game, it did not take long for the Ephwomen to get hot as Williams went on a 12-2 run and never looked back.

The Ephwomen led 34-21 at halftime, thanks in part to Stumpo’s 10 first half points. The Lady Jeffs’ shootings were cold in the opening twenty as they only managed to connect on 7-of-26 shots to shoot an anemic 26.9-percent.

Stumpo finished the afternoon with a game high of 18 points, eight rebounds, two assists and a theft. Colleen Hession ’06 poured on another 16 points and was dead on from beyond the arc, connecting on 4-of-6 treys in 23 minutes of action.

“It is great to come out as a first-year and make an impact,” Hession said. “To sweep Amherst this year is definitely going to be a highlight of my career, regardless of what happens in the upcoming seasons.”

Melissa Skeffington ’03 also scored in double-digits in addition to her six steals. Her play has been one of the main reasons that the Ephwomen have been able to win nine in a row.

The silver lining for Amherst’s poor play was surely senior guard Sarah Walker whose line read 17 points, 18 boards, and four steals. In Williams’ defeat of Amherst, Walker was severely limited, and only managed four points in 18 minutes of play.

However, this time around the Ephwomen defense stifled to play of junior guard Shannon Russell who struggled for only nine points, while she averages better than 17 points on the season.

Forcing turnovers and strong defense are usually responsible for the Ephwomen’s success and last Saturday was no aberration. The defense prevented the Lady Jeffs from reaching 50 points for the second time this season and held Amherst’s field goal percentage to 30. The D also caused a devastating 27 turnovers.

Amherst did out-rebound the Ephwomen in the contest, largely due to Walker’s strong post presence. However, the Lady Jeffs failed to convert the opportunities off offensive rebounds and shot less than 65-percent from the charity stripe, while the Ephwomen drained over 80-percent of their 26 attempted free throws.

Earlier this week, the Ephwomen defeated Trinity for the second time this season, 76-61. The meeting was particularly important for Stumpo as it marked the second meeting with her sister, Keri Stumpo, this season.

After leading by 22 at the half, Williams faded midway through the second frame as hot-shooting by visiting Trinity cut the lead to six with four minutes remaining.

But, the Ephs, behind senior co-captains Stumpo and Skeffington kept the Bantams at bay with ferocious defense and clutch shooting.

The Ephs were led by Stumpo and Skeffington who chipped in with 17 points apiece. Point guard Kerri McMahon ’05 also added 15.

But, it was not always easy for the Ephs. “I feel like we had a real letdown on defense,” Manning said. “To give up 47 points in one half is unheard of for us this season.”

In the early going, Williams dominated the Bantams. The Ephs cruised to a commanding 36-14 lead behind as almost everyone in a Williams jersey managed a point.

“I told them they played like girls,” Bantam Head Coach Maureen Pine said to her disenchanted team during her halftime rant.It would appear as though Pine’s words provoked a second-half Bantam surge. The Bantams managed to cut a 22 point lead to six with 3:46 left in the game on hot shooting.

With two minutes remaining in regulation Dickens hit a jumper and was fouled in the act of shooting. After she drained the freebie, the Ephwomen led by 13 and coasted to victory.

The Ephs are up in Maine next weekend Friday’s first game will pit the Ephs against Bowdoin to be followed by a matinee performance on Saturday against Colby.