For the first time in 11 years, the women’s basketball team will advance to the NESCAC semifinals after beating Bates 75-64 in the quarterfinal game. This win comes after the team finished off the regular season with a 65-45 loss to Amherst on Wednesday, Feb. 13.
Amherst started out strong, limiting Middlebury’s scoring chances with tight defense, as they moved out to a 15-2 lead in the first 11 minutes of play.
Rachel Crews ’15 led a Middlebury surge outscoring the Jeffs 16-9, cutting the lead down to five with 4:30 remaining in the first half. Amherst increased the advantage to nine before a late three by Laura Lowry ’14 cut the lead to 27-21 at the intermission.
Middlebury came out aggressive in the second half, cutting the lead again to five on a three from Lowry with 1:16 gone on the clock. The Panthers later came within three once again when Tracy Borsinger ’13 sunk a three at the 16:24 mark to make it a 32-29 game.
The Jeffs responded with a 17-2 shot advantage over a 6:49 span, led by Jasmine Hardy and Megan Robertson. While the Panthers came within 14 at the 2:53 mark, the Jeffs closed the game on an 8-2 run to come away with the win.
After shooting 32 percent in the first half, the Panthers found a rhythm offensively in the second half improving their overall shooting to 47.6 percent in the game. Despite the hot shooting in the second half, the Panther’s conceded 38 points in the later half, as well as giving up 27 second chance points. Scarlett Kirk ’14 finished with a team high of 14 points, while Lowry and Crews each bagged 10. Jesse Miller ’13 had nine rebounds.
“It was frustrating to hold Amherst close for much of the game but then let the score get away from us, but we still feel that there are many positives to take away from the game,” co-captain Kate Logan ’13 said. “We played very tough defense and tied the Amherst players out through an uptempo game.”
The Panthers did not let this loss get to them as they came out strong in their NESCAC quarterfinal, leading early 8-6, before Bates went on an 8-0 run to open up with a 14-8 advantage after just over six minutes.
Lowry then led the Panthers on a 7-0 spurt, contributing five of the seven points including a three-point play, to cut the lead to 27-26 with 5:04 remaining. Middlebury continued their dominant passage of play, scoring nine of the game’s next 11 points to take a 39-32 advantage with less than a minute to play in the half. A late basket by Crews gave the Panthers a 41-35 lead going into halftime.
Learning from previous mistakes, Middlebury did not let the quality of their play or aggression slip after the break, as a 9-2 run put them up 56-43 with 13:54 left in the game.
However, the Panthers were then unable to connect from the floor, missing the next nine shots as they went nearly 10 minutes without a field goal. Middlebury found themselves tied at 61-61 with 3:58 left in the game when a basket from Lowry ended the drought.
Middlebury then went on a 12-0 run, with seven points coming from Katie Pett ’14 to put Middlebury ahead by 12 points with just seconds left in the game.
“Everyone on the team is willing to do whatever it takes to win, and that’s our greatest strength … we knew that we had the potential to be in this position and it’s great to see all of our hard work pay off,” Lowry said.
Borsinger finished the game with 18 points and seven rebounds closely followed by Lowry who added 17 points and five boards. Pett, meanwhile, finished with 13 points, eight rebounds and three steals.
Middlebury returns to action on Saturday, Feb. 23 at Amherst in the NESCAC semi-final against Williams. The conference tournament underwent a considerable shake-up when news broke shortly after Middlebury’s quarterfinal victory over Bates that Tufts, the NESCAC’s top seed and the sixth-ranked team in the country at the time, had lost to eighth-seeded Bowdoin in their quarterfinal matchup. As a result, the second weekend of tournament play shifted from Medford to Amherst.
“We’re going to enjoy this week together, doing what we love to do, and everybody on this team believes that we can beat Williams,” coach Noreen Pecsok said.