Women's basketball earns NCAA tournament bid
After a strong late-season push and a positive early postseason performance, the Colby women’s basketball regular season and New England Small College Athletic Conference (NESCAC) tournament run came to a close on Saturday, February 26. The Mules fell to Bowdoin College for the third time this season as the Polar Bears ran away with the game, 79-63. Colby’s rival to the south avenged a semifinal loss in last year’s NESCAC tournament.
Bowdoin’s top scorer, Kate Bergeron, scored a tournament-record 29 points as the Polar Bears took the lead for the final time just seven minutes into the first half of play. Colby countered with senior Jules Kowalski’s 18 points and 11 rebounds. Those totals push Kowalski to 1,021 points and 733 rebounds in her outstanding Colby career. Aarika Ritchie ’12 also contributed significantly to the effort with 17 points. Rachael Mack ’12 added 10 with another excellent performance from the free throw line.
Defensive slip-ups for the Polar Bears were few and far between. To make matters worse for Colby, seemingly every defensive lapse was countered with dominating stretches of play: Bowdoin went on 11-0, 7-0 and 13-1 runs to establish the lead. Despite leading the NESCAC in rebounding margin, Colby was outmuscled on the boards, 38-29. Also putting the Mules in a deep hole was a poor 27.3 percent first-half shooting percentage from the field. Colby head coach Christine Clancy pinned the loss on poor execution of the game plan, saying “Bowdoin came out ready to play from the tip. They didn't do anything that we weren't prepared for, but they executed extremely well on both ends of the court and hit big shots. I think we had a good game plan going in, but we didn't execute it as I had hoped. Bowdoin's defensive pressure really took us out of our game, and we were unable to get the ball inside to our post players as much as we wanted to.”
First-seeded Amherst proved to be far too much for Bowdoin in the championship game, however, destroying the third-seeded Polar Bears 72-37. Either Bowdoin or Amherst has won all of the last 11 NESCAC championship games.
Despite the loss this weekend, Colby enjoyed a very successful regular season and NESCAC tournament, sporting a 21-5 record, good for a .807 winning percentage. Coach Clancy credited the season’s success to two key factors, saying, “Depth and balance [were] the key to our success. We had a number of different players that stepped up throughout the year, making it hard for other teams to key on any one player.
Standout players for the Mules included Mack, who averaged 12.6 points and 8.1 rebounds, and Kowalski, who was good for 12 points and 7.8 boards. Diana Manduca ’13 led the team in assists, contributing 3.7 per contest. Mack, Kowalski and senior captain Karlyn Adler all maintained free-throw percentages over 80% as the Mules typically dominated their opponents from the line, leading by nearly 10 percent on the season. Jacky McLaughlin ’12 was a sharpshooter from long-range, hitting 46% of her three-point shots.
On Monday, the Mules learned they would be playing in the NCAA tournament for the second straight year and second time overall. Colby plays Stevens Institute of technology this Friday at 5 p.m. at William Paterson University in New Jersey.
Clancy said of the team’s preparation for the tournament: “We will prepare much like we have throughout the year. I have confidence in what we have done this far and will continue to work to improve. We will really work to impart a sense of urgency into our players, to get them ready for the pressure that comes with the NCAA Tournament.”