Women’s basketball drops NESCAC foes

NESCAC Women’s Basketball Player of the Week Amanni Fernandez ’18 dodges opponent. Photo courtesy of sports information.
NESCAC Women’s Basketball Player of the Week Amanni Fernandez ’18 dodges opponent. Photo courtesy of sports information.

Women’s basketball (13-4, 3-3 in the NESCAC) recorded its second straight come-from-behind win against a conference opponent last Sunday with a 66-49 victory over Middlebury. This win came after Williams beat Hamilton last Friday in a close contest that concluded 59-50.

Amanni Fernandez ’18 earned recognition as the NESCAC Women’s Basketball Player of the Week for her play in both games, in which she she averaged 19.0 points, 4.0 assists, 4.0 steals and 2.5 rebounds per game.

In the contest against Middlebury, the hot hand of Lauren McCall ’17 led the women with 19 points, including five three-pointers. McCall made her first two three-pointers on back-to-back possessions as part of a 10-0 Eph run to begin the game. McCall hit her third triple in the second half after co-captain Oge Uwanaka ’16 stole the ball on the defensive end and hit another three-pointer a minute later to put the Ephs up 28-27. The Panthers finished the first half up 31-30 after the teams swapped leads seven times in the second quarter.

Although Middlebury’s leading scorer, Sarah Kaufman, landed 14 points for the Panthers, the Ephs’ strong defensive effort, starting at the opening tip and leaving the Panthers scoreless for the first four minutes of play, held the Panthers to 32.7 percent shooting from the field. Williams outscored Middlebury 19-6 in the third quarter, turning a one-point halftime deficit into a 12-point lead.

Fernandez played a critical role for the Ephs in the third quarter by netting 11 of the 20 points that helped the women open up a double-digit lead. The Ephs’ offense played with great efficiency and shot 8-10 from the field. Defensively, the Ephs recorded six steals in the third quarter, two of them by Fernandez.

In the fourth quarter, the Eph lead grew to as many as 24 points at any given point within the last two minutes of play. Both McCall and Fernandez added five more points to their stat line in the final 10 minutes.

According to co-captain Katie Litman ’16, the team went into the weekend’s games trying to focus on defense.

“Our focus for these games was on our help defense and rebounding,” Litman said. “Along with great leadership offensively by Fernandez, we were able to effectively execute on both ends of the floor.”

“Our defense and rebounding was much improved this weekend and that enabled us to come away with those all-important NESCAC wins,” Head Coach Pat Manning said.

Sunday’s win marked the Ephs’ ninth straight victory over the Panthers and also marked a departure from last weekend’s losses against NESCAC teams. On Jan. 15 and Jan. 17, Williams lost to Colby and Bowdoin by 69-63 and 74-62, respectively.

“This weekend was really important for our team after getting two losses in Maine last weekend,” co-captain Oge Uwanaka said. “Not only did we get two important conference wins, but I’m really proud of the way we won  – through our defense and consistent teamwork.”

Earlier, the Ephs captured their first conference win with a score of 73-58 over Trinity on Jan. 10 after losing their first conference game 80-44 against Amherst on Jan. 8.

Beforehand, the women won threegames this season against opponents Wesleyan (81-62), Meredith (83-66) and Castleton (58-45) on Dec. 12, Dec. 30 and Jan. 5, respectively. Williams’s loss to Whitman (70-56) on Dec. 29 marked the team’s first loss of the season after beginning the season with an eight-game winning streak.

The Ephs will now take a break from NESCAC play for the next three games before closing their season with conference games. The women will travel to face Amherst tonight at 7 p.m., looking for redemption after losing to Amherst 80-44 two weeks ago.

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