Women's Basketball Stumbles to First Loss
Issue   |   Tue, 02/12/2013 - 21:40
Niahlah Hope '15, Public Affairs Office
Despite strong individual performances, including Marcia Voigt ’13, who tallied 19 points and nine rebounds, the Lady Jeffs saw their perfect season come to an end in a 20-point loss at their archrivals’ hands.

Women’s basketball’s 22-game win streak came to an abrupt halt in Williamstown on Sunday as the Ephs used a first-half run and strong individual performances to deal the Lord Jeffs their first loss of the season, 71-51. The loss, Amherst’s first against the Ephs in 11 contests, drops the third-ranked Lord Jeffs (22-1, 8-1 NESCAC) into a three-way tie atop the conference.

The Lord Jeffs outshot Williams (19-4, 8-1 NESCAC) 59-46 and grabbed 15 offensive rebounds to the Ephs’ six but simply could not get shots to fall, shooting a cold 27.1 percent and going just 3-14 from behind the arc. Marcia Voigt ’13 led the team with 19 points on 7-18 shooting and nine rebounds, while fellow co-captain Bridget Crowley ’13 added 11 points.

On the other end, Williams rode the hot hands of three seniors who accounted for 60 total points. Claire Baecher scored a game-high 30 points and was 8-15 from the field as Williams shot 45.7 percent, well above Amherst’s average field goal percentage defense of 33.3 percent.

Williams jumped out to a 10-4 lead on the strength of four layups and two foul shots as they attacked the lane early on. Both teams focused on working the ball inside and driving to the basket, leading to plenty of contact around the rim and ultimately resulting in 39 fouls being called. Williams would make the most of the referees’ tight officiating, going 24-28 from the charity stripe.

Head coach G.P. Gromacki called a timeout to attempt to stem the tide and the Lord Jeffs responded, working their way back into the game through sheer hustle. An acrobatic save of a missed jumper by sophomore Savannah Holness led to a Jasmine Hardy ’13 layup, and after a turnover at the other end Megan Robertson ’15 grabbed her own rebound and was eventually fouled. Robertson hit one of two and grabbed an offensive rebound the next time down the court, with her subsequent layup off a nice find by Cheyenne Pritchard ’16 making it 14-9 with 11:03 left in the half.

That would prove to be the high-water mark for the team, as Williams went on a game-defining 22-3 run over the next 9:04. After a Jennie Harding layup, things threatened to get out of hand as Baecher hit a three and then blocked Voigt on the other end to set up another Williams three in transition. Voigt responded in kind with a three-pointer off of yet another Robertson offensive rebound to make it a 10-point deficit, 22-12.

Williams promptly scored the next 14 points, as the Lord Jeffs moved the ball around well on offense and manufactured quality shots but could not connect. Baecher continued to attack the basket and was rewarded with four free throws during the run, while Jennie Harding ended a period of sloppy, frenetic play at both ends by draining a contested pull-up three in transition to make it 27-12.

Hardy finally broke the team’s 6:19 scoring drought by getting to the line and making both foul shots to make the score 36-14 with two minutes left. A three-point play by Crowley and a pair of Voigt free throws chipped into the deficit, which would remain at 20 entering halftime as Robertson missed a three at the buzzer.

The Lord Jeffs recovered to shoot 31 percent in the second half and match Williams’ second-half output with 32 points, but the damage was done. The Ephs once again started out the stronger, scoring eight of the first 12 points. The teams traded points before Williams took advantage of two consecutive steals to go up 46-23. Robertson missed a jumper at the other end, and Baecher converted a three-point play to stretch the lead to a game-high 26 points with 15:28 remaining.

Both teams went cold shortly thereafter, causing a three-minute scoreless streak that was broken by four points from Voigt and Crowley, drawing the team within 21 and forcing Williams to call timeout. After the break, the Lord Jeffs took to hoisting up threes in an attempt to narrow the gap as neither team could find their offensive rhythm.

Voigt and Hardy strung together two threes with six and a half minutes left to bring the lead below 20, but Williams’ continuing offensive penetration proved too much for the Lord Jeffs as the Ephs knocked down six straight unanswered free throws to put the game out of reach, making it 66-41 with just over four minutes to play.

The loss knocks the Lord Jeffs out of sole possession of first place in the conference but may end up doing little to alter tournament seeding. Assuming that Tufts, Amherst and Williams all win their games on Wednesday to create a three-way tie, the first tiebreaker would be best head-to-head record amongst the tied teams. Amherst sits at 2-1 thanks to their earlier victories over Tufts and Williams, with Tufts at 1-1 thanks to their 61-57 victory over the Ephs in February and Williams at 1-2.

The Lord Jeffs wrap up their regular season at Middlebury (13-10, 4-5 NESCAC) on Wednesday.