Women’s basketball falls to Tufts in first round of NESCAC tournament

In the quarterfinals of the NESCAC tournament on Saturday, women’s basketball (15–10, 4–6 in the NESCAC) lost to Tufts 58-40. 

Despite turning in a significantly improved performance from their 61-27 loss to the Jumbos on Feb. 10, the No. 7 Ephs ultimately fell short of upsetting the third seed. Amanni Fernandez ’18 led the Ephs with 10 points and five assists, while co-captain Lauren McCall ’17 nearly had a double-double, finishing with eight points and eight rebounds. Three Tufts starters scored in double figures, and Jumbos forward Michela North tallied a game-high 14 points. 

The Ephs controlled play through the first four minutes of the game. A layup by Kristin Fechtelkotter ’18 began a scoring spree that saw the women take an 8-7 lead by the 4:10 mark. The advantage was short-lived, however, and Tufts went on a 10-4 run to emerge from the first quarter with a 17-12 lead. 

The Jumbos quickly extended their lead in the second quarter, bringing the gap to 16 with under a minute to play in the first half. Two free throws by co-captain Devon Caveney ’17 brought the score to 32-18 at halftime. McCall led the Ephs with six points at the break. 

The women put together a more potent offensive attack than they had in the teams’ previous meeting, but the defense of the home team again made the difference. The Ephs coughed the ball up 15 times in the first 20 minutes, with 10 turnovers resulting from Jumbos steals. However, Williams controlled the boards by a 21-16 margin, limiting Tufts from capitalizing on offensive opportunities. 

The Jumbos sustained their double-digit lead throughout the third quarter, finishing the frame with the score at 48-30. The Ephs continued to hurt the Jumbos with their offensive gameplan, but they could not overcome out of the second-half deficit. Turnovers proved to be the game’s deciding factor, as Tufts scored 26 points off 22 Williams turnovers. 

Emily Chang ’20 averaged seven points per game and a team-leading 1.8 3-pointers per game this season. Photo courtesy of Sports Information.

Fernandez did her best to keep the women in the game, scoring all 10 of her points in the second half. She made several tough shots, including a silky step-back jumper. Despite the Ephs’ efforts, the Jumbos continued to dominate in the fourth quarter, sealing their semifinal spot with the 58-40 win.

“Saturday’s  game against Tufts was definitely a challenge for us,” Caveney said. “They are a very good team, but we played them a lot tougher than our last game against them.”

The women finish their season with a record of 15-10 and graduate co-captains McCall and Caveney. 

“We did not have the record we were hoping for this season, but we all had a lot of fun together through the ups and downs,” Caveney said.

Caveney’s scoring average of 13.1 point per game ranks third in the NESCAC. Having averaged double-digit scoring in each of the past three seasons, she finishes her career with 1047 points, the 16th most in school history.

McCall has been a key contributor for four seasons, starting all but one game in the last two years.

The Ephs will return key players Fechtelkotter, Fernandez and Lydia Zaleski ’18 next year. Fechtelkotter led the NESCAC in blocks per game with 2.0 and tied for fourth in rebounds per game with 7.6. Guard Emily Chang ’20 led the team with 1.8 3-pointers per game this season and is expected to play a major role in the future.

“We had great team chemistry and always enjoyed going to practice everyday to the play the sport we all love together,” Caveney said.