ROCHESTER, N.Y. – Claire Baecher and Danny Rainer combined for 40 points to lead Williams (24-5, 9-1 NESCAC) past Rochester (N.Y.) (20-7, 11-3 UAA) and into the Round of 16 in the NCAA tournament. The Ephs will be making their first appearance in the sectional semifinals since 2010, when they dropped a 71-66 decision to archrival Amherst.
Neither team managed to control play for any sustained stretch in the first half. In the opening minutes, Ally Zywicki fed Danielle McNabb at the top of the key for a 3-pointer that gave the Yellowjackets a 13-6 lead with 14:30 to go. The Ephs quickly responded when Baecher fed Rainer, who hit the mid-range jumper. Breana Madrazo answered right back for Rochester with an underhanded shot off the glass to make it 15-8 with 7:37 gone by in the half.
“We started off a little slow,” Williams coach Pat Manning said. “Rochester’s a very good team—they have a great postgame. Early on, I don’t think we defended their inside [players] too well. We were really giving up some easy baskets.”
The Ephs showed off their depth during the comeback, at one point getting four baskets from four players thanks to a pair of hard-nosed drives from Baecher and Grace Rehnquist, an incisive pass from Katie Litman for a Cook layup and a putback by Rainer.
The last of those four plays pulled the Ephs within one at 21-20 with 7:36 to play in the period. Two minutes later, the Ephs knotted things up when Rainer found Baecher with just enough space along the far sideline to knock down a 3-pointer. On the ensuing Yellowjacket trip up the court, Rainer pulled down an Amy Woods miss and found Baecher, who drained her second 3-pointer in 26 seconds to give the Ephs a 26-23 lead, their first since Baecher’s opening-minute 3-pointer gave them a 3-2 advantage.
The Yellowjackets evened the score on their next possession courtesy of an Ally Zywicki 3-pointer that tied the score once more at 26 with 4:52 to play in the period.
Just as the pace of the game—and the scoring—looked to be picking up, both teams fell into a scoring slump and combined to miss all of their field-goal attempts for the next 4:06. Paige Aleski finally broke the run of misses with a 3-pointer for the Yellowjackets to give them a 30-28 lead that lasted into halftime.
In the second half, Jennie Harding, who was scoreless in the first half, gave the Ephs the lead when she collected a pass from Rainer and scored a 3-pointer that made the score 31-30 just 47 seconds into the half.
A pair of solid efforts down low from Kellie Macdonald soon pushed the Eph advantage out to five with 16:17 left in the game, but the Williams shooters had difficulty breaking through a stout Yellowjacket defense and failed to score another point for the next three minutes.
The Ephs held Rochester without a single point for more than seven minutes to start the final period. Overall, the Yellowjackets missed 15 consecutive shots before Kristyn Wright nailed a 3-pointer from in front of her bench to trim the gap to 38-34 with 12:27 to play.
With 8:29 to play, Rehnquist doubled the Williams lead to 47-41. On the Ephs’ next trip up the court, Rehnquist pushed the break following a Baecher rebound and found Rainer for an easy layup and an eight-point lead, the largest of the night for either team.
“We started to run,” Manning said. “We started to play at a faster pace, which was really our goal initially.”
Woods’ pair of free throws with 3:40 left brought Rochester within four at 55-51. Less than a minute later, McNabb sank a long two to make it a one-possession game with 3:10 to go.
After Rainer and Zywicki scored offsetting baskets, the Ephs led with under a minute to go when Rainer finished off the glass to make it 60-55 with 1:14 to play.
The Ephs got possession with 34.4 seconds to play. After the requisite inbounds play and foul, Harding went to the line for the Ephs to shoot one-and-one. Harding missed her shot, but Baecher was able to pull down the rebound, and draw the foul. Seconds later, Baecher sank both free throws to give the Ephs a 62-55 lead with 28.2 seconds left on the clock, sealing the victory.