WILLIAMSTOWN, MA. – With the game knotted at 57 points apiece, Williams junior Chessie Jackson and first-year Claire Baecher teamed up for a perfect give and go play on the final offensive possession of the game to defeat the 11th-ranked Tufts Jumbos (12-2, 0-1 in the NESCAC), 59-57.
Baecher ended up in a trap in the corner, but using her 6’3” frame, she managed to pass the ball to Jackson on the left wing. Jackson found her teammate running along the baseline for a back door pass. Baacher finished with a reverse lay up with 0.7 seconds left on the clock for the winning basket. Williams (12-4, 1-0) halted Tufts 12-game win streak, and tallied its first conference win and first victory over a ranked opponent this season.
In the first half, Tufts seemed unprepared to handle the defensive intensity that Williams brought to the court. The Ephs o pened the game on an 8-0 run, as Tufts could not buy a basket on their end of the floor. The Jumbos scored their first field goal after 7:13 had ticked off the clock. Julia Baily shot a successful jumper from the right elbow to bring the score to 12-6.
Williams continued to keep Tufts off the scoreboard as the first half progressed. The Ephs led by as many sixteen points at 27-11 with 6:00 on the clock, but the Jumbos narrowed the margin to thirteen points at the break and headed to the locker room down 31-18 to the home team.
The Ephs kept Tufts to just five field goals in the first half, as the Jumbos shot 17.9 percent from the floor. Williams was dominant on the glass in the opening twenty minutes as well, out rebounding the Jumbos 26-17.
“Our defense was great in the first half,” said Williams’ head coach Pat Manning. “We were able to build momentum. Tufts is a tough team and can come back at any time. They have very explosive players, and there was a stretch in the second half where we became a little tentative.”
Tufts came out of the break a different team, and charged back into contention almost immediately. Colleen Hart began to get hot from behind the arc for the Jumbos, and she nailed a three to bring her squad within four points of the lead at 40-36 with 13:42 to play. Hart would drain another three-pointer to get within three points just two minutes later. She would finish the night shooting 5-of-8 from three-point range.
The Jumbos continued to inch their way to the lead. Lindsay Weiner scored a runner in the lane, bringing the tally to 44-43 at the mid-way point of the second period. Hart scored a three-pointer at the top of the key to tie the game at 46 apiece with 7:30 left in regulation. Tufts managed to tie the game, but never took the lead as the Ephs continued to score in the critical moments.
The game became a back-and-forth contest for the next five minutes. Ahead 52-50 with four minutes to play, Williams made a defensive stop on Tufts next possession that swung momentum back in their favor. Jill Greenberg had a pull up jumper for the Ephs to bring the lead to four, while Chessie Jackson scored with a strong post move on the Ephs’ following offensive possession to give Williams a 6-point lead with 2:38 on the clock.
Tufts called a timeout to regroup. The Jumbos forced a turnover and scored to bring the score to 56-52, but committed a foul in the paint to put the Ephs on the line. Lisa Jaris made the back end of her free throws to give the Ephs a 57-52 advantage with 1:28 to play. The Ephs forced a shot clock violation by Tufts, and looked to be headed for the win.
Williams struggled in the final minute at the line. Both Greenberg and Jaris went to the charity stripe but couldn’t connect on the front end of the one-and-one. Tufts was fouled on their next possession, and was successful on both their free throws to bring the score to 57-54. Hart nailed another three to tie the game once more at 57-57 as Williams turned the ball over.
Despite being shaky from the line and turning the ball over on the previous possession, the Ephs remained collected under pressure in the final seconds as Baecher scored to give the Ephs the win.
“Claire’s last shot was great,” said Manning. “But she had done a lot of things before that that made her presence known on the defensive end as well. Lisa and Chessie were a huge difference inside tonight. Overall, we had a consistent forty-minute defensive effort tonight. This was the win we have been waiting for all season long. We played a really tough schedule to prepare for conference play like tonight.”
Hart finished the game with a game-high 20 points for the Jumbos. Julia Baily added 14 points, while Tiffany Kornegay contributed 9 points and 7 boards.
Chessie Jackson led all Ephs scorers with 16 points and 6 rebounds. Lisa Jaris scored 15 points and grabbed 6 boards, while Jill Greenberg was strong with 10 points. Claire Baecher added 8 points, 6 boards, and 2 blocks.
Williams will look to build off this win tomorrow against Bates. Game time is set for 2:00 p.m. in Chandler Gymnasium.