WILLIAMSTOWN, Mass. — Claire Baecher led Williams with 19 points and 10 rebounds to pick up her sixth double-double of the year as the Ephs outdueled Ithaca 64-60 to advance to the quarterfinals of the NCAA tournament. Baecher also recorded four blocks to break the Williams single-season record for blocks in a season (previously held by Erin Duffy ’99) with 78.
“[It was] a phenomenal performance by Claire [Baecher],” head coach Pat Manning said. “She was a force on both ends of the floor.”
While the Bombers got contributions from all quarters in the early going, the Eph offense initially ran entirely through Baecher, who scored the Ephs first 10 points. The last three of those came with 12:07 to go in the first half, some slick perimeter passing from Grace Rehnquist and Jennie Harding left Baecher open for just long enough to fire her second 3-pointer of the game to give the Ephs a 10-8 advantage.
Ithaca’s Mary Kate Tierney answered with a 3-pointer to push the Bombers out to an 11-10 advantage.
That bucket prompted a renewed wave of back-and-forth scoring, as neither squad took a lead of more than one basket for 17-plus minutes. That trend finally ended when Devin Shea stole a Kellie Macdonald pass and drove the Bomber offense down the court. There, she got the ball in the paint and flung an outlet pass to Kathryn Campbell, who made a 3-pointer to stretch Ithaca’s advantage to 27-21 with 2:38 left in the half.
With 34 seconds left in the half, the Ephs controlled the ball for one last possession. Eventually, the ball worked its way to Harding, who launched up a long shot that beat the clock for a 28-27 lead.
Campbell put Ithaca back on top with a 3-pointer from the corner to begin the second half but the Ephs built a lead of six points when Baecher made the second of two free throws to stretch the gap to 39-33 with 14:17 to play.
Ithaca battled back once again as Tierney eventually tied the game at 40 with 11:53 left.
With 3:13 to go and the Bombers clinging to a two-point lead, Macdonald received the ball at the perimeter and threaded a horizontal pass to Cook for a 3-pointer and a 52-51 Williams lead.
With the game tied at 53, the Ephs dribbled down the clock before Harding slotted a pass to Baecher under the basket. But the Bombers double-teamed Baecher and kept her from getting a shot away cleanly. Tierney grabbed the rebound with 34 seconds to go, giving the Bombers a chance to work for a game-winning shot.
With 9.7 seconds left, Jenn Escobido mishandled the inbounds pass for a shot-clock violation.
“That was the biggest play of the game,” Manning said on her team’s defensive stand.
With 1.8 seconds left, Rehnquist’s 3-point attempt was off the mark and sent the teams to overtime.
Campbell’s shot to start the extra session gave the Bombers a 55-53 lead. A few minutes later, Baecher spoiled the overtime shutout with a pair of free throws, then stole a back-pass from Shea and drove the length of the court to put the Ephs up two with 2:29 left in the period.
The Ephs still led by two when, with 1:10 left, Cook pulled down a rebound and handed off to Harding. Macdonald’s 3-pointer with 50.8 seconds left gave the Ephs a 62-57 lead.
After Tierney replied with a 3-pointer to bring Ithaca within two, Rainer put the game away with a layup in the middle of the lane.
“I turned the corner, saw a huge opening and just went for it,” Rainer said.