BABSON PARK, MA—On January 24, 2009, the Babson women's basketball team lost a conference matchup against Smith to fall to 10-7 on the season. There was nothing particularly remarkable about the game, but what followed certainly met the standards for "remarkable," as the Beavers proceeded to reel off a winning streak in their Staake Gymnasium that spanned 46 games and almost four calendar years.
On Friday evening, the No. 18 Beavers' (14-2, 9-0 NEWMAC) incredible run was finally relegated to the past tense as the Williams women's basketball team stormed into Staake and earned a resounding 62-42 victory. Four players tallied at least twelve points for the Ephs (14-2, 3-1 NESCAC), who won their fifth straight and left Coach Pat Manning awed afterwards.
"That was a great game," said Manning, before adding simply, "Wow."
"Wow" just might be the best way to say it.
It took only 13 seconds for the Beavers to grab an early lead when Linnett Garber drained an early layup to give Babson a 2-0 lead, the only one the Beavers would enjoy all night long. A little over a minute later, Jennie Harding got the Eph offense rolling by creating some space behind the arc using all of her 5'7" frame to heave the ball straight through the netting.
Harding's shot proved to be an ominous harbinger for the Beavers, as the Ephs compensated for some early possession issues by knocking down their first five three-point attempts of the half to take a 15-8 lead with 12:50 to go, prompting Babson coach Judy Blinstrub to burn her first timeout early. Harding provided the first three of those five while Grace Rehnquist and Ellen Cook chipped in with one apiece, and the Ephs were well on their way to making their curious first half struggles against Plattsburgh State on Tuesday evening a thing of the past.
For a few moments following the timeout, the Beavers appeared poised to make this one a tight contest. Erin Young hit her side's first three of the night to cut the deficit nearly in half, and Sarah Collins got them within two when she collected a rebound off the glass and put home the layup before the Eph defenders could get their bearings. The two sides then traded buckets to make it 17-15 in favor of Williams with just over nine minutes to play in the first period.
It was all Williams from there.
Over the next five minutes, the Ephs launched into a superlative 16-0 run that saw them receive contributions from all quarters while playing some of their best basketball of the year on both sides of the ball. The run started innocently enough when Rehnquist hit a running layup to double the Eph advantage to four, soon to be followed by a Claire Baecher three from the corner via a crisply-thrown pass from Danny Rainer, who then delivered an authoritative block on a layup attempt from Kristen Ferola half a minute later. On the Ephs' next possession, it was Harding again providing the offense as the sparkplug senior stole a pass, raced the length of court, crossed under the basket and threw up a one-handed behind-the-head layup attempt that skimmed high off the glass before dipping seamlessly through the hoop.
At this point, the Eph lead was at a still-manageable 24-15. Blinstrub called another timeout, no doubt hoping to fire up her side enough to start a scoring streak of its own.
Instead, the Ephs began to put on a clinic while steadily increasing their advantage all the while. Rainer and Baecher connected once more when the former slid a neat bounce pass through to defenders to Ephs' tallest player, who snuck in behind the pair and banked one in off the glass as she was fouled, setting up a three-point play that left the Ephs up a dozen. 40 seconds later, Rainer got in on the act herself when she collected a pass from Harding and muscled her way inside before pivoting and getting to the hoop for another two points.
Eventually, Collins, who led the Beavers with 10 points to go along with seven rebounds on the evening, ended her squad's scoring drought by knocking down a long two-point jumper with 3:56 remaining, the damage had already been done. Cook quickly negated Collins' basket by draining another three to make it 36-17, and by the time the half drew to a close with Rehnquist penetrating the lane before feeding Rainer in the corner for a two, the Ephs had nearly doubled up their opponents at 43-22 while shooting 8-of-12 from behind the arc, a stark contrast to Tuesday's 1-12 during the same stretch, a difference that was not lost on Manning after the game.
"Our offense was where we struggled the other night against Plattsburgh in the first half," said Manning. "[Tonight], everything started clicking for us on both ends of the floor right away. That made a big difference."
Despite their large advantage, the Ephs recognized the dangers of letting their guard down for even a moment against a Babson squad that had been averaging over 60 points a game coming into the night and continued to play their regulars for much of the second half. However, any realistic hopes the Beavers had of mounting a comeback died early in the period, as the Ephs proved content to take time off the clock during their possession and managed to whittle three minutes off the half's 20 before Collins broke the half's stalemate by putting home a rebound.
That basket seemed to act as a kind of trigger for the Eph offense, which proceeded to outscore the Beavers by a 21-11 count over the next 12:20, with highlights coming from Kellie Macdonald, who set up Cook for consecutive buckets with a pair of nifty passes, Rainer, who repeatedly used her size and strength to work her way to the basket for six consecutive Eph points, and Mary Kate O'Brien, who hit the Ephs' tenth and final three of the night to give them a 62-35 lead, their largest all night, with 4:39 remaining.
When it was all said and done, the Ephs had themselves an historic victory against a formidable foe, though Manning contended that it was primarily the latter that factored into her team's preparation.
"They did know [about the streak]," said Manning. "We talked about it, but we just knew that Babson's a very good team, a very strong program. They're good, and we knew it. So, we were fired up for this game anyway—we weren't even thinking about that streak, it was just about us raising our level when we're playing a ranked team.
"You only get so many chances with ranked teams and very good teams and you've got to take advantage of every one you get. So we were very focused on this."
The Ephs will now attempt to carry the momentum built tonight back into NESCAC play on Sunday, when they will travel to Clinton, NY to take on Hamilton College. Tip-off is set for 4:00 PM.