Panther women’s hoop defeats Bates, makes league semis
MIDDLEBURY — For the first time since 2002, the Middlebury College women’s basketball team is going to the NESCAC final four, courtesy of the No. 4 Panthers’ 75-64 home quarterfinal win over No. 5 Bates on Saturday.
Middlebury (14-11) will meet No. 3 Williams (21-4) on Saturday at Amherst, while No. 8 Bowdoin (14-10) will take on the No. 2 host school Amherst (24-1). The winners meet Sunday.
Panther coach Noreen Pecsok would love to see her team — which lost two rotation players to season-ending injuries, Katie Ritter and Nora Kelley, and has a third playing hurt, Sarah Marcus — keep rolling.
“We’re not done,” Pecsok said. “You have to create the conditions for the upset. You have to be so prepared … if they’re a little off, you might just go get them.”
No matter what happens next, Pecsok said the Panthers have had a remarkable season.
“I’m thrilled with the outcome to this point. We lost three starters from last year’s team, and we lost three starters from this year’s team, and we just keep getting it done,” Pecsok said.
On Saturday, Bates (12-12) led, 14-8, but the Panther bench helped Middlebury lead at the break, 41-35.
Middlebury got good first-half bench work from Kate Logan (eight points, all in the first half), Marcus and Rachel Crews as the Panther subs outscored the Bates subs, 15-4. Ten points each from starters Tracy Borsinger and Laura Lowry also helped offset a 17-point half by Bates sharpshooter Allie Beaulieu.
Middlebury opened the second half on a 15-8 run that featured five points from Borsinger and four each from Scarlett Kirk and Lowry. Katie Pett capped the surge with a layup at 13:54, and the Panthers were up, 56-43.
But they didn’t score a point in the next 7:03 or a hoop in the next 9:56, and Bates took a 61-59 lead on a Beaulieu jumper at 5:00.
The Panthers then took charge with a 12-0 run. Borsinger (18 points, seven boards) hit two free throws, and Lowry (17 points, five rebounds) drove to snap the basket drought at 3:58. Pett (13 points, eight boards) hit the offensive glass for four points, and Kirk scored on the break to make it 69-61. The Panthers then iced the win from the line.
Kirk finished with nine points and five boards despite first-half foul trouble, and Jesse Miller added five boards.
Pecsok credited the Panthers for not getting “flustered” during the scoreless stretch, and for their game-long effort.
“We played so far from perfect, but we played every play,” she said. “We did things we didn’t want to do, for sure, but they just played hard, really, really hard. I’m just so happy for them.”