Women’s hoops falls in first round of NCAAs

Women’s basketball (20-7, 7-3 in the NESCAC) fell to Stevenson 67-55 last Friday in the opening round of the NCAA Div. III Tournament. The Ephs finish the year with their third consecutive 20-win season, having qualified for the NCAA Div. III tournament each of these past three years.

“We got off to a great start, but Stevenson is a very explosive team and they can score points in a hurry,” Head Coach Pat Manning said.

The Ephs dominated the early stages of the game, starting with a 7-0 run capped by a three-pointer from Devon Caveney ’17. After the Mustangs finally got on the scoreboard, Katie Litman ’16 responded with a pair of baskets for the Ephs. Amanni Fernandez ’18 and co-captain Ellen Cook ’15 also made early shots for Williams, giving the women a 16-2 lead after seven minutes of play.

Over the next four minutes, Williams stretched its lead to 16 points, but Stevenson settled down through the rest of the first half. After making over 50 percent of their field goals in the first 10 minutes, the Ephs went 3-14 in the remainder of the half. The Mustangs took advantage of fast-break opportunities to close the gap, but  Williams still held on to a 28-23 lead over Stevenson by halftime.

“We weren’t stopping them in transition like we needed to, and they got some momentum going into halftime,” Manning said.

Co-captain Kellie Macdonald ’15 led the Ephs to another strong start to open the second half of the game, scoring six of the first eight second-half points for Williams. After a short run by the Mustangs, Cook drained a three-pointer to bring the Ephs’ lead back to a strong eight points. Macdonald later added a layup to give Williams a 43-33 lead with 14:09 left in the game.

Stevenson relied on their fast break offense to eat away at the Williams lead, trimming the deficit to just one basket. Cook gave Williams a cushion by sinking another three-pointer with nine minutes left, but the stifling Mustang defense held the Ephs scoreless for the next seven minutes.

The Mustangs outscored the Ephs 22-4 after Cook’s three-pointer, forcing the Ephs to foul at the close of the game. A three-pointer by Caveney with 1:49 left pulled the Ephs within six, but the Mustangs made enough free throws to come away with a 67-55 win.

Williams closes its season with a 20-7 record, reaching the 20-win threshold for the third-straight year and for the fifth time in six years. With the loss, the Ephs have been knocked out in the opening round of the NCAA Div. III Tournament two years in a row.

“We finished with the No. 1 strength of schedule ranking in the country. To be able to come out with 20 wins is an amazing accomplishment,” Manning said.

Cook was named the Co-Defensive Player of the Year in the NESCAC and was also named First Team All-NESCAC for her second time at Williams. Cook finishes in the top 10 for both career points and assists in the history of the program at the College.

The Ephs looks to continue their success with a strong returning lineup next season, but will unfortunately lose Cook and Macdonald to graduation in June. Cook and Macdonald captained the Ephs for the past two seasons and were both starters during Williams’ first trip to the NCAA Div. III Final Four in school history in 2013.

“I loved coaching [Cook and Macdonald]. They worked really hard and always had a team-first attitude,” Manning said. “They’re going to be greatly missed, but they’ll leave a lasting legacy of hard work, sacrifice, and determination.”