After nine lead changes and many momentum shifts, Wellesley Basketball won Saturday’s home contest 52-45 against Mount Holyoke. The Blue began the game on a 7-2 run but Mount Holyoke evened the score with 15:53 remaining in the half. It was tied at 19-19 until Mount Holyoke made two jump shots in the final two minutes of the first half. Down by four with the score at 19-23, the home team came out in the second half reenergized and focused. The two teams continued to battle until Wellesley was able to build a lead of seven points, its largest lead of the game, with 1:04 left in regulation. The Blue maintained its poise in the final stretch as Ailis Hanley ’17, Morgyne Weaver ’15 and Kayla Jang ’18 knocked down free throws to outlast Mount Holyoke.
“We usually have a word for the whole week, and this week’s word was urgency. We focused on playing together, and not trying to do too much individually,” Jang said.
Wellesley controlled the court, out-rebounding Mount Holyoke 38-27 and scoring 34 points in the paint compared to Mount Holyoke’s 16. Wellesley’s finesse in rebounding and putback shots was also shown in its eight second- chance-points compared to Mount Holyoke’s three.
“We did a really good job today looking for each other. We ran the break pretty well. We pushed the ball up the floor, and ball movement was good,” co-captain Natalie Anderson ’15 said.
Notable performances from the Blue included Weaver’s 22 points on nine of 17 field goals and seven rebounds. Chelsi Scott ’16 added nine points, grabbed eight rebounds and had three steals. Hanley also filled the stats sheet with eight points, six rebounds and two assists.
Coming in to Saturday’s game, the team focused on teamwork and playing for one another.
“You don’t play a team sport just to play for yourself. That’s the best part of this — it’s playing with other teammates and working hard for your teammates. When good things happen for other people on the floor, we jump around and scream and slap each other on the back!,” Anderson said.
Playing Saturday’s game at home on the new Gracia Mangano Martore ’73 Court was a delight for the team and home spectators. The Wellesley community loudly cheered and rallied behind its team in a heated match, and the Blue appreciated the support from the crowd.
“We haven’t gotten to play at home very much this year. Our home games have mostly been at Babson. It was nice to have a home crowd and people cheering for us,” Anderson said.
The team has also made great progress since the start of the season.
“I’m proud about how far we have come from the beginning of the year. It’s a lot of fun playing together. We have a lot of inside jokes and it keeps it fun,” Jang said.
The season so far has been eventful for the Blue, filled with many notable moments. Among them includes their win against Worcester Polytechnic Institute (WPI). Jang noted that it was a game in which the Blue came out focused with a lot of energy. The players collectively believed it was possible to beat WPI and subsequently followed through with a win.
“The WPI win was a huge win. If we do everything we should, it could be the tiebreaker for us to get in the tournament,” Coach Jennifer Kroll said.
Wellesley’s win against Mount Holyoke was also vital for the Blue to have a chance at making the NEWMAC Tournament. Wellesley also needs wins in their remaining two games against MIT and Smith in order to prolong their season.
“Every game for us matters. What we have said as a group is that each one of these games is a tournament game. We want to play like every game could be our last, like we are in post season already, and hopefully that will get us in the NEWMAC tournament and extend our season,” said Coach Kroll said.
The team will now prepare for their last two regular season contests. The Blue has shown great improvement so far, but the team hopes to get better. Coach Kroll noted that this year may have been seen as a rebuilding year, only because many players from the team graduated last year. Hence, one aspect that the team continues to focus on is allowing players to adjust to their roles and encouraging them to contribute more.
“Our biggest challenge has been finding that consistency. Coming in every night and given that there are different circumstances, different match ups and different styles of play, we need to try to be consistent as a team and make those adjustments sooner. I think the highlight of the season is probably still yet ahead of us. That is what we are trying to focus on – the future, where we are right now and what’s coming tomorrow. We have learned a lot of lessons thus far,” Coach Kroll expressed.
Wellesley will play MIT on Wednesday in Cambridge and Smith on Saturday at home.
Photos courtesy of Ivy Jiang, Staff Writer