For the first time since the 2013-2014 season, the Wesleyan women’s basketball team will play in the NESCAC Championships. The Cardinals played two challenging NESCAC opponents this weekend, Colby and Bowdoin, and won one of their two games to end the regular season with a 16-7 overall record, 5-5 in conference play. They have secured the fifth seed in the conference and will look to move on to the semifinals this weekend.
The Cards started the weekend off right with a victory against Colby on Friday night. The first half was action-packed. Colby opened up the game with a three-pointer and jump-shot which were quickly countered by a layup from Ava Tompkins ’20 and a jump shot from Tara Berger ’19. Wes then took the lead for the first time with a three from Olivia Gorman ’19.
The teams continued to trade baskets, and Colby tied the game at 12 towards the end of the first quarter. Then Wes went on a 9-0 run at the end of the first to give them a 21-14 advantage heading into the second quarter. Colby then came roaring back and outscored Wes 19-14 in the second quarter to cut the lead down to two headed into halftime.
The Mules again tied up the game halfway through the third quarter, this time at 40, and a layup from Colby’s Paige Russel would put Colby back on top, 42-40. Maeve Vitale ’18 quickly responded with a deep three to put the Cardinals back on top for good.
The Cards led 55-50 heading into the fourth. Though the Mules showed signs of a comeback, coming within one down the stretch, Maddie Bledsoe ’18 dominated on the defensive boards and Wes took advantage of Colby’s foul trouble, making 11 free throws, to ensure the Cards’ 16th victory of the season.
Saturday was senior day for the Cardinals, as Kadijah Mathews ’18, Bledsoe, and Vitale were all honored for their contributions to the team for the past four years.
To start, the Polar Bears quickly went up 10-0, making it clear that they were not going to make this an easy game for the Cardinals. Wes then went on a 7-2 run, sparked by a jump shot from Tara Berger ’19, to cut the Bears’ lead to five. However, this proved to be closest the Cardinals would come to Bowdoin’s commanding lead, and they trailed 24-11 at the end of the first quarter.
Wesleyan had a much more successful second quarter, but it was not enough to counter the increasingly powerful Polar Bears, who also stepped up their game. The quarter opened with a three-pointer from Emma Roush ’21, which was quickly countered by a layup from Bowdoin’s Maddie Hasson. Bowdoin continued to build their lead, which the Cards brought down to 15 towards the end of the second quarter, but was unable to shrink further. The Bears led 57-30 at halftime.
With lots of ground to make up in the second half, the Cardinals played the Polar Bears about even to start the third quarter, but were again quickly overwhelmed, and down 78-40 heading into the fourth. The Cardinals won the fourth quarter, outscoring Bowdoin 11-10, but it was nowhere near enough to make a real dent in the Bears’ sizable lead.
Bowdoin had five players score in the double digits, shot an impressive 42.5 percent from the field and an even more impressive 44 percent from three-point territory. They also only had 10 turnovers compared to Wesleyan’s 21, 13 of which came from steals. Bowdoin clearly out-rebounded Wes as well, 50-34. This proved to be very important on the offensive end, as Bowdoin scored 19 second-chance points while Wes only scored nine.
Though the Cards were not able to come together to get the win, there were some individual points of success. The team struggled offensively as a whole, shooting 33.3 percent from the field, 29.4 percent from three, and just 63.2 percent from the free-throw line, yet Gorman and Berger both scored in the double digits, garnering 10 and 15 points respectively. Additionally, Wes dominated with blocks, getting 11 to Bowdoin’s two.
As the Cardinals head into a challenging NESCAC tournament next weekend, Bledsoe says they will look to improve their consistency.
“A big focus for us in playoffs is to make sure to play a full 40 minutes in each game that we’re in,” Bledsoe said. “We have had spurts in games where we play great basketball combined with some lapses, and I think if we can play a full 40 minutes with no lapses we can have a lot of success in the postseason.”
The tournament tips off at Amherst, who claimed the top seed in the conference for the second year in a row by posting an undefeated record. Wesleyan has secured the fifth seed in the conference, so they will face Middlebury in the quarterfinal round to be played at three o’clock on Saturday afternoon.
Rose Griffin can be reached at email@example.com.