February 21, 2011

            The Middlebury College women’s basketball team saw its season come to an end with a 67-64 loss at Colby in a NESCAC Quarterfinal contest. The Panthers end the season with a 15-9 mark, the most wins since '01-'02.

            Despite playing just 25 minutes because of first half foul trouble, Colby’s Rachael Mack finished with game-highs of 26 points and 12 rebounds for her seventh double-double of the season. She shot 6-12 from the field and was 14-16 from the foul line.

Mack hit two free throws with 1:36 left to put the Mules up 64-59. The Panthers answered back 21 seconds later when senior Lauren Sanchez (Seattle, Wash.) nailed two free throws to cut the margin back to three. Colby had a miss at the other end, but Middlebury had a turnover with 30 seconds to play. Diana Manduca was immediately fouled and hit two free throws for the Mules with 29 seconds to play for a 66-61 lead. The Panthers once again fought back as junior Maddie Moreau (Canton, N.Y.) nailed a three-point shot with 19 seconds left. Mack was fouled on the inbounds pass and hit 1-2 from the line to make it 67-64. The Mules were able to supply some pressure defense to prevent Middlebury from getting off a three-point shot and the Panthers settled for a missed lay-up by Moreau with six seconds to play. A wild scramble on the rebound ended the game.

Middlebury was up 49-44 with 9:58 left in the game and had one chance to go up by seven points. The Panthers’ last lead was 55-54 when junior Stephany Surrette (Worcester, Mass.) hit a pair of free throws with 5:10 to play. With the score 56-56, Colby’s Aarika Ritchie scored on a drive to the basket and Mack added another inside score for a 60-56 margin. Sanchez answered with a drive of her own to the basket to make it 60-58 and then went 1-2 from the foul line to cut Colby’s lead to 60-59. Manduca scored on another drive to the basket with 2:08 to play for a 62-59 lead and then Mack hit the two free throws with 1:36 remaining.

Sanchez had 20 points, including a 14-20 effort from the foul line, six rebounds, six steals, and five assists for the Panthers. Sophomore Tracy Borsinger (Chatham, N.J.) added 12 points, while Surrette had eight boards and five points despite playing just 18 minutes because of foul problems.

            Earlier in the week, Middlebury forced 24 turnovers against visiting Hamilton en route to a 51-44 non-league victory Tuesday night in Pepin Gym.

            Hamilton shot an efficient .444 from the floor in the first half, besting the Panthers’ .290 shooting, but the Continentals committed 15 turnovers, as Middlebury took a 26-16 lead into intermission. Trailing 10-7 with 12:05 left in the first, the Panthers went on an 11-0 run, forcing five turnovers and allowing one Hamilton shot from the floor over the next six minutes of play. Middlebury rookie Sarah Marcus (Williamsville, N.Y.) led the charge, hitting a pair of threes during the span, for an 18-10 lead. The Continentals cut the deficit to 20-14 on a jumper from Claire Hunsinger at the 4:09 mark, before the Panthers ended the half on a 6-2 spurt and a 26-16 lead at the break.

            In the second half, Hamilton went on a 4-0 run, cutting the Panther lead to 30-24 with 14:36 remaining. The Panthers responded with a 6-0 burst, as Marcus scored two baskets, including a lay-up at 9:42, giving Middlebury a 36-24 cushion. Trailing 43-34 with 4:38 to play, Hamilton’s Blue Sanders scored consecutive buckets, slicing the Panther lead to 43-38 with 3:41 left in the game. Moreau answered for Middlebury, nailing a three, before Borsinger added a lay-up at 2:38 off a Continental turnover for a 48-38 lead with 2:38 on the clock.

            Hamilton did not go away as Sanders nailed back-to-back threes, trimming the Middlebury advantage to 48-44 with 58 seconds left to play. The Panthers earned some breathing room when Sanchez made a lay-up and a free throw with 25 seconds remaining, for a 51-44 lead. Hamilton missed the front end of a one-and-one opportunity from the line and was 0/2 from the field in the waning seconds, eliminating any chance of a final comeback.

            Moreau paced Middlebury with 11 points and four assists, while Marcus added 10 points and nabbed three steals off the bench. Surrette added seven points and a team best seven rebounds for the Panthers.
• Women’s basketball final record: 15-9