After two consecutive losses in NESCAC games against Williams and Bowdoin, the women’s basketball team bounced back with wins against Colby and Lyndon State before winning a make-or-break game against Trinity on Sunday, Feb. 10, all but guaranteeing a spot in the NESCAC quarterfinals.
The past four conference games for Middlebury highlight the ups and downs the Panthers have experienced this season.
“The NESCAC has been crazy this year, so I don’t think anyone really knows what place we’ll end up in, but regardless going into the NESCAC tournament with a solid win is a great way to enter,” said Laura Lowry ’14.
In action on Jan. 26, Middlebury was unable to challenge Williams, and the Ephs rushed out to a nine-point lead 3:36 into the game. As Coach Noreen Pecsok tried to settle her team down, Middlebury was able to claw back before a 16-2 run gave Williams full control of the game going into the half, 22-9. Though Tracy Borsinger ’13 rallied the Panthers with a running lay-in and a pair of free throws, Williams sealed the game with a 7-0 run.
Middlebury was unable to turn things around against Bowdoin on Feb. 1. While the Polar Bears carried a six-point lead into halftime, the Panthers were able to trim the deficit to four points following a free throw from Katie Pett ’14 with 15:52 remaining in the second half. Bowdoin quickly pulled away, however, going on a 14-0 run over five minutes to finish the game 60-40.
The Polar Bears held the Panthers to 24 percent shooting in the second half and converted 17 points off of 15 Middlebury turnovers.
The following day, Feb. 2, Middlebury held on for a scrappy win against Colby. The Mules led 17-11 with 8:25 in the first half, but the Panthers went on a 16-8 run to secure a 27-25 margin at intermission, and never allowed Colby to take the lead in the second half. The teams traded buckets for most of the final period as the Mules were able to tie the game with 3:53 left on the clock. An inside basket from Pett gave Middlebury a two-point lead as the final two minutes turned into a hectic battle, and Lowry sealed the game in Middlebury’s favor, 52-48, with two free throws.
Middlebury finished their final non-conference game with a win against Lyndon State on Feb. 5. After trailing 7-3, the Panthers went on a 14-2 run after a pair of threes from Kristina Conroy ’14 to hold a 17-9 lead with 10:33 left in the first half. The Panthers then scored 18 of 22 points starting at the 6:29 mark to go into the break with a 41-25 advantage.
Middlebury scored the first 10 points of the second half, led by Scarlett Kirk ’14. The lead stretched to as much as 31 points after a bucket from Jesse Miller ’13, leading Middlebury to a 74-47 victory.
The win gave the Panthers momentum going into their game against Trinity. In a very evenly contested first half against the Bantams, both teams traded buckets, neither side leading by more than three, until a pair of free throws from Middlebury’s Tracy Borsinger put the Panthers on top 29-25 with 5:15 remaining. Lowry, the player of the game, hit a jumper on the Panther’s next possession to give Middlebury its biggest lead of the half at 31-25. The Bantams came close to tying the game, going into the break just one point behind Middlebury after picking up several points off baseline drives from Hannah Brickley and Taylor Murtaugh.
While Middlebury has at times struggled to maintain their intensity in the second half of games this season, the Panthers turned a 41-41 point tie into a 10-point lead, spurred on by Lowry and Kirk.
While the Bantams were able to manage a 5-0 run, Lowry’s final points of the game gave Middlebury a 68-60 lead at 6:39. The Panthers built their lead back to double-figures with a Pett lay-up at 2:40.
It seemed that the Panthers could possibly suffer the same fate as they did against Hamilton, losing a five point lead in the final three seconds, after Christina Raiti’s three with 53 seconds left on the clock was followed by a pair of free throws by Moriah Sweeney. Middlebury ultimately held on, notching the 81-71 victory.
Free throws played a particularly important role in the game as the Panthers managed 27-36 from the stripe while Trinity managed 16-20 free throws.
Lowry scored a career-best of 25 points, which came on 7-14 shooting. Despite leading her team in scoring, she was quick to praise the efforts of all her teammates.
“The game against Trinity shows how deep we are, and shows how many different ways we can score,” she said. “We’re playing well, and most importantly we’re playing as a team and I wouldn’t want to go into the tournament any other way.”
Three other Middlebury players finished with double digits, as Borsinger and Pett added 16 points while Kirk netted 15. Miller finished with a game-high of 13 rebounds.
Pecsok is looking for more of the same from her team in their upcoming game against Amherst and the NESCAC quarterfinal.
“We will prepare the same way we have been preparing the last couple of weeks,” said Pecsok. “[We] are not done and are not looking at what we have done to this point, only what else we can accomplish.”