Women’s Basketball Loses Heartbreaker

By IMRAN GANDA

In an exciting and tightly contested bout, the Wesleyan Cardinals (17–7) managed to escape Pepin Gym last Saturday, Feb. 17, with a 63–62 win over the women’s basketball team (17–8) in the Nescac quarterfinals.

Middlebury and Wesleyan met earlier in the season on Jan. 6, in what also was a home game for the Panthers. The Panthers comfortably won the regular season matchup by a 17 point margin, with guard Lily Kuntz ’20 scoring a career-high 13 points.

Both teams traded blows out of the gate, and Middlebury trailed 6–5 about halfway through the first quarter. Then things changed thanks to the Cardinals getting hot behind the arc. Wesleyan put together a 15–2 run over the span of five minutes run by sinking four out of their six three-point attempts in the quarter. A Betsy Knox ’20 jumper late in the quarter stopped the bleeding, but the Panthers still trailed by a dozen heading into the second.

Facing a 14-point deficit after the Cawrdinals opened the second quarter by hitting a jumper, the Panthers began a spirited effort that would last the rest of the game.

Middlebury began to cut the deficit with fluid ball movement, which began paying off almost immediately as they found easy buckets inside the paint. Catherine Harrison ’20 was able to have her way in down in the post for a majority of the quarter, and a basket from Sabrina Weeks ’18 cut Wesleyan’s lead to just six, 32–26. Over the final two and a half minutes, both teams went on small spurts, but a Knox buzzer-beater allowed the Panthers to have the last laugh and made the halftime deficit a manageable six.

Heading into the third down 36–30, the Panthers’ comeback hopes seemed even more realistic as Maya Davis ’20 almost immediately made a basket to bring the lead down to four.

However, the momentum then shifted in favor of the Cardinals who went on another run, 10–0. But, the Panthers responded this time with a 10–3 run of their own over the remaining minutes of the third which was capped by an Ivy Houde ’19 jumper to cut Wesleyan’s lead to 49–42.

With the crowd on their feet anticipating a comeback, the Cardinals silenced the crowd by playing hard defense. With just under six minutes and the deficit up to a dozen again, 56–44, Middlebury’s urgency caused them to run rampant over a span of three minutes that saw the Panthers go on an 11–0 run and which brought them within a point of the Cardinals.

With about ninety seconds remaining, the Cardinals secured a three and a pair of free-throws and found themselves up 61–55 with 35 seconds remaining on the clock.

On the next possession, Kira Waldman ’20 dribbled the ball up court and hit a step-back jumper from beyond the arc to cut the lead down to three with roughly 27 seconds in the game. Middlebury fouled to extend the game, and Wesleyan made one of two free throws.

With 13 seconds left, the Cardinals fouled Davis who sank two free throws to bring the Panthers within two. Once again, Middlebury fouled and Wesleyan made one of two free throws to make the score 63–60.

In quick succession, Sarah Kaufman ’18 managed to draw a foul on a shot attempt from downtown to be sent to the line for three free throws. After missing the first, she converted the next two and Middlebury was forced to foul with just 2 seconds left on the clock. The Cardinals missed both free throws, but time expired as both teams scrambled for the rebound.

Waldman led the Panthers in scoring with 14 points. The Panthers concluded their season with a 17–8 record, which matches their record from last season. The Panthers were engaged in a hard-fought battle that almost ended in an emphatic comeback. The near-comeback would have been all the more epic given the packed and raucous stands at an energetic Pepin Gym.

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Women’s Basketball Loses Heartbreaker