Women’s basketball (21-4, 6-3 in the NESCAC) defeated Tufts 69-64 in overtime on Saturday to pull through the quarterfinals of the NESCAC tournament. The win marked the women’s first NESCAC tournament win since 2007. Jill Greenberg ’12 set a new school record in assists in the game, banking her 383rd career assist in the victory over the Jumbos.
Both teams came prepared to play, but Tufts got the early lead after going six for six from the floor. The Ephs shot three for four in the opening minutes, but went down 12-7 before calling a timeout with 16:30 left in the first half. Tri-captain Taylor Shea ’11 led the Ephs’ offensive attack, scoring six of the women’s first nine points and netting 10 of her 20 points in the first half.
After the timeout, Williams tied the game at 16-16 with 12:21 left in the first half. The Jumbos then took command, going on an eight-point run before Shea scored a lay-up off a pass from Greenberg. Tufts called a timeout with three minutes remaining in the first half before going on a 10-3 run to close out the half with a 34-25 lead. The women were plagued by three turnovers in the first half, limiting their offensive output and forcing them to step up on defense.
“We have always been able to come back from behind, and we are almost in a better position when we’re not sitting too comfortably,” Shea said. “I think the key was not looking at the nine-point deficit as something that was insurmountable.”
Williams proved resilient, however, emerging from halftime with a 12-point run. Grace Rehnquist ’13 scored her only basket of the day in the Ephs’ second-half charge, netting a three-pointer from deep behind the arc. The run was ended by a pair of Jumbo foul shots, which tightened the score to 37-36 in the Ephs’ favor. Tufts then scored six more unanswered points and maintained a narrow five-point lead for much of the second half.
As the time on the clock dwindled, the Ephs mounted an offensive comeback. Down 54-47, Greenberg hit a jumper in the lane to make the score 54-49. Shea then made a lay-up to reduce the Jumbos’ lead to three. After a Williams timeout with 2:08 left in the game, Tufts sank a two-point field goal, bringing the women’s deficit back up to five at 56-51.
With tension mounting, Greenberg took possession of the ball and netted a three-pointer, making it a one-basket game. With just 30 seconds remaining, the Ephs’ defense came up with a huge stop, sending the ball to a waiting Shea. Shea spun quickly to beat her defender and put away another lay-up for a last-second tie.
Tufts called a timeout before deciding to run down the clock to secure the final shot of the game. The Jumbos’ final shot did not sink, however, and the miss sent the 58-58 game to overtime.
“We just took it play by play: We would prevent them from scoring defensively and then score on the offensive end,” Shea said.
Tri-captain Chessie Jackson ’11 helped start the women off properly in the overtime period, sinking a shot from behind the arc to secure a three-point lead. The Ephs fouled on the next two possessions, and the Jumbos netted all four free throws to earn a one-point advantage. The women were tied at 64-64 with 2:12 remaining in overtime when Tufts called a timeout. Following the timeout, the Ephs’ defense shut the Jumbos down for the remainder of the game. The women then nailed five foul shots to win the game 69-64.
Shea led the Ephs’ offensive attack with 20 points, eight rebounds and three assists. Greenberg had 15 points and four assists on the night, while Claire Baecher ’13 netted 16 points. Jackson and Jennie Harding ’13 added seven and five points, respectively. The women shot 43 percent from the floor, while holding Tufts to just 32 percent shooting. The Ephs also out-rebounded the Jumbos by a 50-33 margin.
With the victory, the women advance to the semifinals of the NESCAC tournament, where they will face perennial foe and top seed Amherst. The Ephs have lost twice this season to the Jeffs, 85-63 on Jan. 8 and 66-55 on Feb. 12. The semifinals will be held at Amherst on Saturday. Tip-off is at 2 p.m.
“We can’t build Amherst into something that they’re not. They are certainly beatable and we just have to take the game one play at a time,” Shea said.