WILLIAMSTOWN, Mass. – The Williams College women's basketball team (10-8, 2-3 NESCAC) fell to Middlebury (13-4, 3-2 NESCAC) 57-54 in a home NESCAC matchup on Saturday afternoon. The Ephs nearly erased a 16-point fourth quarter defecit, but fell short in the game's last few seconds.
The Panthers jumped out to an early lead on the Ephs, going up 9-1 on a three-pointer by Maya Davis with 7:05 remaining in the first quarter. A Kristin Fechtelkotter layup with 4:12 remaining would put the Ephs down just 11-6, but Middlebury re-extended their lead; a Kira Waldman three-pointer with 14 seconds remaining in the first quarter gave the Panthers a 25-11 lead, their biggest yet, heading into the second quarter.
The Panthers shot 71.4% (10 of 14) from the field in this dominant first quarter (including 5 of 5 behind the arc), while Williams shot just 30.8% (4 of 13).
The two teams traded baskets to start the second quarter, and a Maggie Meehan jump shot with 7:10 remaining brought the score to 27-15. Middlebury grew their lead to as great as 16 on a Betsy Knox layup that brought the game to 31-15 with 2:53 remaining. However, an Amanni Fernandez three-pointer with 2:40 remaining ignited a Williams run, and the Ephs would outscore the Panthers 12-2 in the final few minutes of the half, going into halftime down just 33-27.
On her three-pointer at the end of the first half, Fernandez scored the 1000th point of her Williams career. Fernandez is the 18th Eph woman to score 1000 points. Williams head coach Pat Manning commented on her player's accomplishment: "This is a great achievement for Amanni, although it would've been best if we had won the game."
Fechtelkotter led the Ephs with 12 points in the first half, and Meehan contributed eight. Waldman led the Panthers with 11 first half points.
Middlebury again extended their lead to start the second half, and a set of free throws by Davis with 7:38 remaining put the visiting Panthers up 39-27 on the Ephs. Momentum shifted in the Ephs' direction again, and a layup by Emily Peckham with 4:27 remaining would put the Ephs down just six points at 39-33, but the Panthers would go on an end-of-quarter run and lead Williams 48-35 heading into the game's final period.
Sarah Kaufman extended the Panther lead to 51-35 on a three-pointer just 20 seconds into the fourth quarter, but from this point on the Ephs stormed back. Two Fechtelkotter free throws with 7:45 remaining made the game 51-39, and a Fernandez steal and layup a minute later put the Ephs down just 51-43, bringing the Williams crowd into the game. After the Ephs used strong defensive pressure to creep even closer during the next few minutes, a Fernandez three-pointer with 19 seconds put Williams down just two points at 56-54. After a missed Middlebury free throw, Williams had a final chance with the ball down 57-54 in the closing seconds, but a three-pointer fell short.
Although Coach Manning praised her team's comeback, she wasn't happy with the Ephs' overall performance: "It was a good comback. However, we never should've been down that much to begin with. We should've come out with much more intensity."
Fechtelkotter led Williams, scoring 16 points and recording seven blocks. Additionally, Meehan scored 12 and Fernandez scored 10. Davis led Middlebury with 12 points, and Knox and Waldman scored 11 apiece.
The Ephs shot 35.1% (20 of 57) from the field, while the Panthers shot 43.8% (21 of 48).
Williams returns to action on Friday, January 26th at home against Trinity at 7 p.m, while Middlebury plays on Monday, January 22nd at home against Smith at 6 p.m.