Women’s hoops stacks up conference wins

Women’s basketball (18-4, 7-1 in the NESCAC) contested a steely defensive battle with Bowdoin last Saturday. Struggling offensively early on, Williams rebounded nicely in the second half behind stellar play from Jennie Harding ’13 and co-captain Claire Baecher ’13, who each tallied double figures in scoring. Their defense held the Polar Bears to 19 percent shooting, as the Ephs secured the win, 50-42. The win came less than 24 hours after the women visited Colby, where they garnered a comfortable 60-42 victory. The women suffered a 53-49 loss to Smith on Jan. 28, after burying conference foe Middlebury 62-36 on Jan. 26. The women dropped a game to Amherst on Jan. 23 after reeling off six straight victories in the preceding weeks.

It took a full four minutes for the women to get on the board in Saturday’s contest, with Ellen Cook ’15 finally sinking a shot in the paint. Baecher supplemented the offensive effort with a nice lay-in on the subsequent possession, assisted skillfully by co-captain Danny Rainer ’13. Baecher opened the second half with a pair of three-pointers that touched off a 13-0 run for the Ephs. With 15 minutes to play, Williams regained the lead, 28-21, helped by Baecher’s game-high 22 points and 10 rebounds. The Ephs kept the Polar Bears from making a single field goal until a full 12 minutes into the period. The women registered nine blocks, tying their season-high in NESCAC conference play. The Polar Bears fought hard in the closing minutes, but never edged beyond a five-point deficit, resulting in the Ephs’ 50-42 victory.

“Claire grew up in Brunswick, and she loves playing in Maine – especially in front of hometown friends and family. She was a big reason we got the win,” Head Coach Pat Manning said. The win snapped a 10-game losing streak at Bowdoin for the women. “It started off as ugly basketball, but that was due to the defensive intensity from both teams,” Manning said. “Claire’s two second-half threes lifted everyone up. For her, it was a dominating performance.”

Against Colby on Friday, Baecher again helped get things moving for the women, notching six early points – half of her game-leading 12 points, along with 11 rebounds, for her third double-double of the season. With 12 minutes remaining in the half, the Ephs erupted on an 11-2 run that distanced them from the Mules. Fueled by two jump shots from Cook, as well as four inside buckets from Kellie Macdonald ’15 and three long balls from Harding, the women entered halftime up 33-18. The second half saw equally dominate play from the Ephs. With the win, the Ephs clinched a conference playoff berth.

“It was a great weekend for us,” Manning said. “Our seniors had never beaten Colby, and a team goal was to go undefeated in Maine, which we did … I was thrilled with our defensive intensity. We didn’t give up many open looks.”

The women suffered a close loss at Smith on Jan. 28, where a Pioneer full court press caused a season-high 24 turnovers from the Ephs, who also struggled to score, tallying only 19 points in the first. A clutch three from Smith with 47 seconds remaining proved enough to vanquish the women 53-49.

On Jan. 26, the women dominated Middlebury in a lopsided home contest that featured 20 points in 22 minutes from Baecher. The Ephs rushed out to an early 29-11 advantage and never looked back, dropping the Panthers handily, 62-36. Three days earlier, on Jan. 23, the women faced Amherst in a gritty road match-up. A defensive battle throughout, the game was tightly contested until the final few possessions, when Amherst managed to hit a few clutch buckets and secure a 54-48 victory.

On Jan. 20, the women traveled to Clinton, N.Y., to challenge Hamilton. Baecher, Cook and Grace Rehnquist ’13 all hit double-digit scoring, as the Ephs notched the 57-35 victory. On Jan. 18, the women took on Babson away, breaking the Beavers 46-game home winning streak by a 20-point margin to win 62-42. On Jan. 15 the women took on Plattsburgh State, coming out triumphant, 59-44.

The women will battle Amherst at 8 p.m. on Friday, with a share of the NESCAC regular season title on the line.

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