Women’s hoops opens NESCAC play 2-0

Women’s basketball (13-4, 2-0 in the NESCAC) opened conference play strongly this weekend at home, dropping then-11th-ranked Tufts on Friday at the buzzer before soundly beating Bates on Saturday.

“The two wins this weekend were extremely important for our momentum during NESCAC play,” Chessie Jackson ’11 said. “We have been training hard since we returned from winter break and, as a team, our mentality is one of focus and determination.”

On Saturday afternoon, Williams demonstrated this focus and determination in pushing aside all thoughts of the previous day’s mentally and physically trying Tufts game to take care of business against Bates, 67-59.

The first half of the game was hard fought by both teams: The Ephs and Bobcats traded leads five times, with neither team managing to pull too far ahead. However, Williams managed to open a lead as the half closed and went into the locker room up 37-30.

In the second half, the Ephs and Bobcats matched each other nearly point for point before the Ephs closed the door in the final minutes of the game. The game’s intensity was apparent – while the Williams’ victory was sealed by a comfortable margin of 67 to 59, the Ephs barely outscored the Bobcats in the second half, notching 30 points to the opponent’s 29.

Williams proved a more balanced team than its opponents offensively, with Jill Greenberg ’12 scoring 11 points, Lisa Jaris ’12 and Taylor Shea ’11 adding 10 each, and Jackson leading the Ephs with 12. Meanwhile, Bobcat senior Lauren Yanofsky, their leading scorer this season, was one of only two Bobcats in double figures with 19 points. The second-leading scorer on the day only had 11.

In its NESCAC opener on Friday night against Tufts, Williams got out to a quick start, opening up an 8-0 lead as the game began. Managing to hold on to a sizeable lead throughout the first half, Williams headed into the locker room up 31-18, knowing that the second half would likely not be as easy as the first.

The second 20 minutes did bring a change: Tufts rallied over the half’s first 13 minutes, and Jumbo Colleen Hart sank a three pointer to tie up the game at 46-46 with 7:30 left to play. The Ephs again pulled ahead, opening their lead to six points with 1:28 left on the clock. But the Jumbos would not go down without a fight: in the final minute, Hart again came up big for the Jumbos, nailing a three pointer off an Eph turnover to tie the game at 57 apiece with fewer than 30 seconds remaining.

However, the Ephs did not fold under pressure and were able to respond on their last possession. With just 0.7 seconds left in the game, Claire Baecher ’13 was able to convert off a perfectly executed give and go with Jackson for a reverse layup to end Tufts’ 12-game win streak and clinch the victory for Williams.

Again leading the Ephs were Jackson and Jaris, who contributed 16 and 15 points respectively and grabbed six rebounds each. Greenberg put another 10 points on the scoreboard. On defense, Baecher came up with two blocks.

“This is the first time in my four years that we have finished the opening weekend 2-0, and I think it sent a message to the rest of the league that Williams is back to playing at the level of the teams at the top of the NESCAC,” captain Elizabeth Hansen ’10 said.

Earlier in the week, on Jan. 12, Wesleyan (6-6) proved a challenge for the women. The Cardinals held a lead in the early going of the game, but the Ephs were able to pull ahead 44-37 by halftime. That lead was never lost: While the lead fluctuated between an early 11-point safety net down to a close 3-point difference, the women held the Wesleyan offense at bay to finish the game 73-70.

The victory over Wesleyan was a relief after Amherst soundly defeated the women 75-51 at home on Jan. 9. The loss to Amherst came after Williams took down Skidmore, 71-52, at Saratoga Springs on Jan. 6 and Rhode Island in the consolation game of the Williams Winter Classic on Jan. 4., 51-48. The Ephs had fallen to Eastern Connecticut State 52-49 in the tournament’s opener the day before.

The Ephs’ next two games will be played back-to-back on the road against Wesleyan (6-8) on Friday at 6 p.m. and against Conn. College (7-7) on Saturday at 2 p.m.

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