WILLIAMSTOWN, MA—Eventually, the Williams women's basketball team is going to have to find a new recipe for success.
But for now, woe to the team that takes on Williams when the Ephs are coming off a loss.
For the fourth time this season, the Ephs (17-4, 6-1 NESCAC) followed a setback with a resounding win by defeating the Colby College Mules (7-13, 1-6) by a 60-42 count. In fact, the 18-point margin of victory is something of an outlier; in each of their previous three wins after losses, the Ephs had outscored the competition by at least 25.
The win also provided the Ephs, who had not beaten Colby since 2008, with a measure of revenge after last year's heartbreaking 61-59 loss to the Mules in the NESCAC quarterfinals. But the Mules' poor luck of having to face Williams following the Ephs' gritty 53-49 loss to Smith on Tuesday left them at a serious disadvantage entering Friday's contest at Wardsworth Gymnasium, recent history be darned.
"It's crazy," chuckled Ephs coach Pat Manning on her team's ability to bounce back. "When our defense is on, we can be a very tough team to score against."
While the Ephs initially struggled from the field and missed their first four shots, they quickly pulled themselves back into the contest and vaulted into the lead thanks in large part six early points from Claire Baecher, who led all players with 12 points and 11 rebounds for her third double-double of the season.
After a pair of Carylanne Wolfington free throws pulled the Mules back to within 11-9 with 12:41 to go in the half, the Ephs launched into an 11-2 run, one that eventually morphed into a favorable holding pattern of traded points that left the Ephs up by 15 by the half. Two Ellen Cook jumpers (one from each side of the arc) courtesy of Grace Rehnquist feeds keyed the run, along with some strong work down low by Kellie Macadonald, who scored eight of her 10 points in the first period, and good outside shooting from Jennie Harding, who led the Ephs with 11 points in the half, nine of which came via three-pointers.
"We got off to a great start," said Manning. "It was a game that we needed. We went into the locker room at halftime feeling good, and started the second half strong again."
Indeed, the Ephs quickly consolidated their lead, which eventually grew as large as 26 points, to begin the second half. This time, the star of the show was the Ephs' renowned defense, which held the Mules without a field goal for the first 5:11 of the period and limited Colby to just 26% shooting from the field overall.
With the win, the Ephs also officially clinched a spot in the conference playoffs, though Manning was quick to downplay significance of an achievement that has long appeared all-but-assured.
"We just want to keep going," said Manning. "We feel like we control our own destiny, and every conference game is so important we don't have any time to think about this."
The Ephs wrap up their regular season road schedule tomorrow afternoon against Bowdoin. Tip-off is scheduled for 4:00 P.M., with NESCAC tournament seeding likely on the line.
Still, Manning is confident after tonight's performance.
"I was really happy that we were able to get back on track," said Manning. "This is such a crucial weekend for us."