Women’s basketball stumbles against Colby at NESCACs

Fifth-seeded women’s basketball (19-6, 6-5 in the NESCAC) fell to fourth-seeded Colby on Saturday in the NESCAC quarterfinals.

Co-captain Jill Greenberg ’12 contributed 11 points in her team’s final game of the season against the Mules last Saturday. - Todd Brenner, Executive Editor
Co-captain Jill Greenberg ’12 contributed 11 points in her team’s final game of the season against the Mules last Saturday. - Todd Brenner, Executive Editor

The Mules defeated the Ephs 61-59 after guard Aarika Ritchie hit a clutch pair of free throws with 2.1 seconds remaining to secure the win for her team.

The game was close from the tip-off, as the opponents exchanged buckets for the first 10 minutes until the women took a 15-12 advantage. With nine minutes and change remaining in the half, Grace Rehnquist ’13 netted a three from the corner to extend the lead to 18-12, but the Mules responded with a pair of free throws, a jumper and a long ball of their own to secure a 19-18 lead. The level play continued for the remainder of the half, and the Ephs entered the locker room down 35-33 despite shooting at a 59-percent clip compared to the Mules’ 47 percent.

After halftime, Williams exploded on an 8-0 run, giving the women a solid 41-35 advantage. Rehnquist netted two from the charity stripe to push the Ephs’ lead to 48-42 with 10:54 to play. However, Colby then rallied with consistent offensive play, pulling within one at 52-51 just 15 minutes into the second frame. Co-captain Jill Greenberg ’12 answered with back-to-back baskets to widen the margin to 56-51 with 2:25 left.

Colby then burned a timeout to regroup and call a set play. The quick hitter was effective: Colby found a sharpshooter open, who then drilled a three to cut the deficit to 56-54 with two minutes on the clock. After Williams came up empty on the offensive end, a Colby player was fouled and missed the front end of a one-and-one. Despite the setback, the Mules were able to pull down the offensive rebound for another possession. A Colby guard then drove strong to the hole,  capitalizing on the opportunity to give her side a critical 57-56 lead with 59 seconds left. The lead was the team’s first in over 18 minutes. On their next possession, the Ephs missed an inside shot and gave the ball back to the Mules. The women were forced to foul with 27 seconds left on the clock. Colby took full advantage of the free-throw opportunity, going two-for-two to take a three-point lead.

In arguably the most important possession of the Ephs’ season, Greenberg came up huge with a three-pointer to knot the game at 59-59 with 18 seconds left. The ball then went back to Colby, which maintained possession for the final shot. As the team struggled to find an open look, Mule Ritchie took the game into her own hands with a drive into the lane with under five seconds remaining. She was then fouled and knocked to the floor with 2.1 seconds left. Ritchie shot 80 percent from the line this season, and Saturday was no exception: She calmly sank both shots to give her team a 61-59 lead. With just two seconds remaining, Williams was forced to take a half-court desperation heave that came up well short, ending the women’s season with a 61-59 loss.

Four women shot in double digits in the contest. Danny Rainer ’13 had a strong showing, netting 19 points. Rehnquist scored 11, Kellie Macdonald ’15 accounted for 12 points and Greenberg added 11. The women shot 48.9 percent on the night, while the Mules shot 43.3 percent. Williams also out-rebounded Colby 30-28 and hit 44.4 percent from behind the arc to Colby’s 30.8 percent. The women recorded the advantage in assists, tallying 18 to Colby’s 15.

The women will graduate three seniors this year: guard Greenberg and tri-captains Ana Rodriguez-Villa ’12 and Lisa Jaris ’12. The departure of Rodriguez-Villa and Jaris will leave voids at forward in the line-up.

Head Coach Pat Manning praised her team’s performance despite the disappointing loss. “I am very proud of the effort of our team in the Colby game,” she said. “We out-rebounded them and controlled their inside game, which was a major improvement from our first game with them two weeks ago.”

The women are currently awaiting word on whether they have earned an at large-bid to the Div. III NCAA tournament, which will take place in March. The bids will be announced at the end of this week.

“We are playing great basketball right now and hope to have the opportunity to continue our season by earning an at-large bid,” Manning said. “I have enjoyed every minute with this team, this is a special group.”