WILLIAMSTOWN, Mass. – Bridgewater State edged 22nd-ranked Williams 61-60 on Saturday as the Bears captured the Williams Holiday Classic title by posting a 2-0 record at the tournament.
The loss was the host Ephs’ first of the season and drops them to 5-1, while the Bears improved to the same record with their second victory in 24 hours.
Bridgewater State took the early initiative and came out firing. Elisha Homich hit a long 3-pointer to get things rolling for the Bears. That kicked off an opening run that propelled the Bears to quick 11-4 lead while the Ephs struggled from the field and made only two of their first nine shots.
Williams quickly fought back, however. After Katie Litman found Claire Baecher with a perfectly placed lob to cut the deficit to one, Grace Rehnquist came off the bench to drain a pair of longs 3s to put the Ephs up by 16-13 with 10 minutes to go.
That was the largest lead either team would enjoy for the remainder of the period, as the teams spent the rest of the half trading buckets courtesy of solid individual performances on both sides. Rachel Kusz’s steal-and-score from Rehnquist energized the Bear bench, while Ellen Cook’s buzzer-beating jumper at the end of the half pushed the Eph lead back out to three.
While Williams immediately extended its lead after the break thanks to a three-point play from Danny Rainer that made it 33-27, the Bears responded by launching a 19-3 run that saw contributions from all quarters. A Jenna Williamson 3 after a long bout of possession for the Bears made it 40-36, followed by a beautiful underhanded layup from Homich, who scored 17 points and was named tournament MVP, were two of the many highlights for Bridgewater State.
The Ephs refused to go quietly, however, and slowly but surely began to nail back the deficit. A nifty give-and-go between Cook and Rainer left the former open to knock down a 3-pointer to make it 49-43 with 9:14 to go. They then cut the new deficit in half 90 seconds later, when Baecher collected a defensive rebound and shoveled pass to Jennie Harding, who hustled up court and passed back to Baecher, who calmly banked one in off the glass from downtown to cut the Bear lead to 49-46.
From that point on, the game was a taut and tense affair, as the Bears failed to extend their lead beyond five points and the Ephs worked their way closer but struggled to even up the score. Another Cook 3 from well beyond the arc brought them to within 51-49 with 4:27 to go, only to see Michaela Cosby respond with a pair of clutch free throws.
On the Ephs’ next trip down the court, Harding fed Cook behind the arc once more; this time, though, Cook threw an excellent head fake and drove to the hoop to make it 53-51 with 3:09 to go, only to see Megan Boutilette answer back with a layup for two of her 12 points.
With under a minute go, Homich made a pair of clutch free throws to make the score 59-55 and make the Bears a sensational 14-of-15 from the line to that point in the contest. But the Ephs responded with their best play of the day, as Harding threw a lob near the rim for Baecher, who caught and shot off the backboard while in midair to trim the deficit in half once more.
Cosby dominated at that point, brilliantly dribbling away the Bears’ next possession before knifing through the lane to drain a layup and give Bridgewater State a seemingly insurmountable 61-57 lead with 12 seconds remaining.
Still, the Ephs refused to concede defeat as Baecher, who led all scorers with 21 points, drained another three to make it 61-60 with three seconds to play. Unfortunately for the Ephs, it proved to be too little too late. After the requisite foul, the Bears missed the ensuing free throw, but Harding failed to completely corral the rebound as time expired.
Along with her 17 points, Homich added a pair of rebounds, three assists and a steal. Boutilette, who was also named to the All-Tournament Team, finished with a double-double as she pulled down a game-high 11 rebounds including five off the offensive glass. She also recorded five steals and pair of assists. Cosby and Williamson added 10 points apiece for the Bears.