February 18, 2012

Basketball Falls to Smith to Close Regular Season

NORTHAMPTON, Mass. -- Smith College used a strong second half to power past visiting Wellesley, 68-54, in in the regular-season finale for both teams at Ainsworth Gym on Saturday.

Smith tied the school's single season win mark in improving to 19-5, with a 14-4 mark in the NEWMAC. Wellesley falls to 12-11 overall, and 11-7 in the NEWMAC. The Pioneers have clinched the No. 2 seed and a bye in the first round of the NEWMAC tournament. Wellesley will be the No. 4 seed in the playoffs and will host a quarterfinal game on February 22.  

Smith's Ellie Giles had 11 points, four rebounds, and four blocked shots while Paulina Solis led all scorers with 16 points. Lizzy BelBruno also chipped in 12 points for the Pioneers.

Leslie Leong led Wellesley with 14 points, while adding nine rebounds. Malia Maier added 12 points, while Morgyne Weaver scored nine. Ashleigh Sargent tied a season-high, pulling down eight boards, to go along with five points. 

The game was neck-and-neck through out the first half - Smith opened up a 13-6 lead on a three from BelBruno four minutes into the game, but Wellesley went on an 11-5 run fueled by a three point play by Natalie Anderson to get within a point at 18-17. Giles fed Solis for a layup that gave Smith a 22-17 advatage with 9:12 to go, only to see Wellesley score 12 of the next 18 points for a 29-28 lead. Sydney Parkmond's free throw with 45 seconds left in the half sent the team's into the break tied at 29.

The Blue and the Pioneers traded baskets on the first 10 possessions of the half, before Smith took the lead for good on Brittany Purington's basket from five feet with 11:37 left in the half.  The Blue stayed within three until Solis singlehandedly put the game to bed.  The first year hit a pair of free throws to put Smith up 48-43 at the 7:26 mark, then knocked down a pair of threes to open up a 54-43 advantage.

Giles pushed the lead to 14 with a pair of free throws with 46 seconds, and Wellesley would get no closer the rest of the way.

Smith tied the record of 19 wins set by the 1995-96 team that advanced to the ECAC tournament - the Pioneers will have a week off before playing a to be determined opponent in the NEWMAC semi-finals on February 25 at 3:00 p.m. at Babson. 

Wellesley will host #5 Springfield at home on Wednesday at 7:00pm. The 2011-12 Blue set a program record for NEWMAC wins this season (11), and will host a home playoff game for the first time since the 2001-02 season.