Women's basketball defeats Williams
After yet another excellent week of games, the Colby women’s basketball team continues to ride a strong wave of momentum through the postseason. Tuesday, Feb. 14, brought the team its sixth loss after an away matchup with Babson College, but the Mules rebounded with vigor in a heart-pounding, last-second win over of Williams College this Saturday.
The Babson game continued a run of matchups for Colby against high-quality opponents. Babson is 23-2 overall, with a perfect 18-0 record in the New England Women’s and Men’s Athletic Conference (NEWMAC); the strength of these win totals has propelled the Beavers to number 18 in the national Division III rankings. The Mules came up just six points shy of Babson, falling 65-59. Guard Diana Manduca ’13 and forward Rachael Mack ’12 both had 18 points, trailing Babson senior Nicki Wurdeman’s 24, which made her the all-time leading scorer in Babson history. Babson bested Colby in most statistical categories save for free throw shooting, which has been an area of strength for the Mules all year long.
That emphasis on foul shooting came in handy on Saturday, Feb. 18, when the Williams Ephs came to Wadsworth Gymnasium for the quarterfinal round of the New England Small College Athletic Conference (NESCAC) playoffs. Colby and Williams entered the game on very level footing, separated by only a game in both their NESCAC standings and overall records. The Mules had been victorious against Williams once before, emerging on the right side of a 62-56 decision earlier in the month. Both teams entered the game highly knowledgeable of the opponent and equally hungry for the victory, and the scoreboard reflected it. A back and forth battle led to a deadlock between the teams at 59 points with 2.1 seconds to play. Captain Aarika Ritchie ’12, nailed two free throws at that point to lock up the victory.
The Mules fought hard to bring the score back to a tie game; after being down for most of the second half, guard Jayde Bennett ’13 nailed a runner in the final minute of play, drawing a foul along the way. Bennett’s three points on the play (she converted the free throw) contributed to her team-leading 13 points, a figure made more impressive considering that she wasn’t in the starting five. Bennett’s clutch, gritty play in the game, especially in the final minute, made her a crowd favorite among the 800 in attendance. Two more free throws, this time with 27 seconds left, brought the Colby lead to 59-56 and Bennett’s season free-throw shooting percentage to an impressive 88 percent. After Williams’ Jill Greenberg nailed a three-pointer to bring the game to a tie, Colby got the ball and fed it to Ritchie, setting the stage for her clinching free throws.
The exciting win grants the Mules a spot in the semifinals and a date with the nationally top-ranked Amherst College team. This is a tremendous challenge for Colby, but they’ve proved that they won’t roll over for the favorites. A Jan. 21 matchup between the two teams ended in a tight, 51-50 defeat for the Mules. The game is Saturday, Feb. 25, at noon at Amherst.