Women’s basketball splits home tourney

Women’s basketball (5-1) suffered its first loss of the season last weekend, falling to Bridgewater State in the second game of the Williams Holiday Classic. Saturday’s game proved a tightly contested match-up, with the Bears and Ephs trading the lead throughout, but the Bears held on for a narrow 61-60 victory. The previous day, the women used a quick start to down RPI 68-52. The women entered the tournament coming off four consecutive non-conference wins in the previous two weeks.

The four-team Williams Holiday Classic concluded on Saturday with the women’s loss to Bridgewater State. The Bears hit the ground running, nailing a few threes for an early 11-4 advantage. They also got stops on the defensive side of the ball, holding the Ephs to two of nine shooting in the opening minutes. The Ephs fought back, however, as Grace Rehnquist ’13 hit a pair of threes to capture a 16-13 lead with 10 minutes left in the period, and Ellen Cook ’15 hit a buzzer-beating jump shot to end the half with the score 33-30 in favor of the Ephs.

In the second period, Bridgewater State guard and tournament MVP Elisha Homich stepped up and scored some of her team-high 17 points to secure a 40-36 lead for her team. The women cut into the deficit minutes later, though, as Jennie Harding ’13 pushed the break and found co-captain Claire Baecher ’13, who nailed one from deep to put the Ephs down just 49-46 with eight minutes to play. The women narrowed the Bears’ lead again to 59-57 six minutes later, but the Ephs ran out of time and were defeated 61-60 for the first time this season.

“Saturday’s game was disappointing because we didn’t bring that same level of defensive intensity,” Head Coach Pat Manning said. “Bridgewater got baskets when they needed them, and we couldn’t get those key stops. We’re usually at our best in the final few minutes, but we found ourselves trading baskets and constantly playing catch-up.”

Baecher finished with an impressive stat line: 21 points and seven rebounds. Cook added 15 points, including three buckets from behind the arc. The Ephs shot 45.8 percent from the field and 50 percent from downtown.

Saturday’s defeat followed a comfortable win over RPI in the tournament opener. The women raced out to an early advantage, scoring 20 points to RPI’s five in the game’s first eight minutes, including a 10-0 run in which Cook found Rehnquist for an open corner three. But it was the defense that fueled the Ephs’ first-half success. They held the Engineers to one for 11 shooting on their first 12 attempts and entered the locker room with a 38-21 advantage.

Williams opened the second period in equally exciting fashion, as Kellie Macdonald ’15 swatted away an Engineer three and co-captain Danny Rainer ’13 collected the loose ball and pushed the break to find Harding open from downtown. The three was just one of four long balls the Ephs made in their first five attempts in the half. The women’s sharpshooting, combined with another spirited defensive effort, ballooned the lead, which resulted in a 68-52 victory.

“Our offense had as great a start against RPI as it’s had all season,” Manning said of the women’s performance.

The mixed outcome at the Williams Holiday Classic came after a perfect 4-0 start to the season. On Nov. 25, in the women’s final contest before the tournament, Williams crushed MCLA 65-31. “Our offense really started clicking in this game,” Manning remarked. Baecher scored 17 while Cook added 14; both shot over 50 percent.

On Nov. 20, Williams visited Springfield, where the women came out on top 43-31 in a rigorously defended game. The women faced the University of New England two days prior, notching a narrow win and escaping 55-49. On Nov. 17, the women kicked off their season with a close 60-53 home victory against Salve Regina, in which Baecher and Rainer led the way with 14 points apiece.

The women faced Skidmore at home last night, but results came in too late to report. Williams will travel to Wesleyan on Saturday to battle the Cardinals at 2 p.m.

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