SANTA CRUZ, CA — Maggie Meehan scored 16 points and Gabby Martin added 12 Friday night as the Williams College women's basketball team held off host UC-Santa Cruz, 62-59, at the UCSC Hyatt Place December Classic in the Kaiser Permanente Arena.
The outcome was in doubt until the final buzzer, when Banana Slug guard C.J. Catina missed a long-range, desperation three that could have tied the game. Catina led Santa Cruz with 16 points.
Senior Lauren Vostal added nine points and a team-high 10 rebounds in the victory. Williams improved to 6-5 on the season while the Banana Slugs slipped to 6-5 overall. The Ephs are now off until 2019, when they pick action back up on Friday, January 4th at conference rival Wesleyan.
"I thought it was a big team win," Ephs' head coach Pat Manning said. "I was excited with the way we played defense in crunch time when momentum had shifted back to them. They are a team that never quits, but we made some big plays defensively. I was pleased with the contributions we got from our bench. Gabby Martin had a great all around game, Maddy Mandyck was a real prescence out there for us, and Mikaela Topper made some big plays as well. I thought Maggie Meehan really did a great job running the show out there as well. Just a real great team effort tonight."
Meehan was accorded All-Tournament honors for her play in the two games of the tournament.
Friday night, the Ephs were up by seven at the halftime break, 37-30, despite trailing by nine after the first 10 minutes of the game. Williams held the hosts off the scoreboard for the first 5:02 of the second quarter in the midst of a 17-0 run that turned a 23-12 deficit into a 29-23 lead. Martin and Meehan were instrumental in the run on both sides of the court. Santa Cruz would go just 1 of 11 from the floor in the second stanza after shooting 47 percent in the first quarter.
As the second quarter began, the Ephs began attacking the basket with enthusiasm. Martin opened the quarter with a lay-up. After a defensive rebound, Meehan had a strong take past three Banana Slugs down the lane and to the hoop, where she scored and converted a subsequent fre throw to narrow the score to 23-19. A Santa Cruz turnover led to a fastbreak bucket from Martin and two Meehan freebies tied the game at 23 with 7:22 to go before halftime. A Meehan defensive rebound led to Mikaela Topper getting fouled going to the basket. Topper hit both free throws for a 25-23 Williams lead with 6:50 left.
After a pair of Vostal rebounds ended Santa Cruz possessions at one-and-done, Williams first-year Maddy Mandyck would hit a short jumper for a four-point edge. After another Vostal defensive rebound, Meehan beat her defender off the dribble and made a lay-up for a 29-23 lead with 5;10 to go. A pair of free throws by Santa Criz's Suhansi Perera ended the Ephs' run and the hosts got back within one point. In the final 90 seconds, Martin made a couple of key plays that led to and allowed the Ephs to go into the locker room up by seven at the break.
First, she ripped a rebound out of the grasp of Santa Cruz's Katilin Stephenson and turned that into a lay-in for a 31-28 lead. She then stole the ball on the hosts next possession and drove in for another score and a 33-28 lead.
"That was probably one of the best second quarters we've ever had," Manning said. "We settled down and started to play defense the way we had planned to. In the first quarter, we had not done that. And we rebounded much better. I thought (Gabby) gave us a real spark in that quarter."
The two teams went at each other hard in the third quarter, but a small 7-2 spurt in the final minute allowed the Ephs to take their largest lead of the game at 54-44. A single Meehan free throw with 58 seconds to go made it 50-44 Williams. Martin the made a great take to the basket for another lay-in and, following a Santa Cruz turnover, Vostal drove to the hoop for another lay-in and the 10 -point advantage. When Meehan opened the final frame by dropping in a 15-foot jumper for a 12-point lead, the Ephs were on the verge of running away with it.
Williams shot 40 percent (6 of 15) from the floor in the third quarter, while holding the Banana Slugs to just 3 of 16 from the floor.
But Santa Cruz scored the games next eight points, getting two more threes from Catina, the second of which made it a 56-52 game with 7:58 remaining. It was 58-54 when Martin came up with another huge play, grabbing a defensive rebound on the run and dashing between to Banana Slugs for a coast-to-coast lay-up. With just over two minutes left, Mandyck came up with a huge play when, off a scramble for a rebound on the offensive glass, she somehow saved the ball from going out of bounds nd got it to Meehan, who scored to regain a six-point lead for the Ephs. After a Ashley Kowack trey made it 62-59, Mandyck grabbed another key offensive rebound that allowed the Ephs to maintain possession for a precious few more seconds.
However, a charge call against Topper with 22.7 seconds left gave the ball back to Santa Cruz. The Ephs played tight defense however, and the Banana Slugs elected to take a timeout with 4.8 seconds left after not getting a good look at the basket. However, they still good not find a big enough opening in the Williams defense to get a good look, and Catina was forced to take a 33-foot, game-tying three-attempt as the buzzer sounded. It was off the mark.
The Ephs' defensive effort held Santa Cruz to just 9 of 41 shooting from the floor after the first quarter. They also ended up winning the war on the glass, 44-39. Mandyck had nine rebounds to go with six points for the Ephs, while Katie Brule added seven points and six rebounds for the Ephs. Another key stat: The Ephs outscored their hosts in the paint, 38-8.