Wellesley Basketball Hangs On To Top Non-Conference Simmons, 50-48

Zojajha Ayub had eight points and five rebounds off the Blue bench (Miranda Yang).
Zojajha Ayub had eight points and five rebounds off the Blue bench (Miranda Yang).

BOSTON, Mass. -- Wellesley College basketball outscored host Simmons University 13-11 over the final 5:48 of the fourth quarter to hang on for a 50-48 victory in an entertaining back-and-forth non-conference contest on Tuesday evening at Moore Gymnasium.

With the win, Wellesley improves to 3-0 to start the season for the second time in the last three years (2016-17). Simmons is now 0-4 overall.

Junior Emily Kopp (King Ferry, N.Y.) scored 13 points to lead the Blue, finishing 5-for-9 from the field. Classmate Caitlin Aguirre (El Paso, Texas) added 11 points, four rebounds, three assists, and three steals. Senior Zojajha Ayub (Belle Mead, N.J.) scored eight points and had a team-high five rebounds off the bench. Sophomore Alyssa Cho (Hillsborough, Calif.) matched Ayub with five boards for the Blue. First year Daisy Ella Johnson (Westport, Mass.) finished with four of Wellesley's 15 steals. 

Simmons sophomore Cassandra Stapelfeld (Brookline, N.H.) led all scorers with 23 points. Stapelfeld finished 9-for-17 from the floor, knocking down 3-of-6 attempts from beyond the arc, while also collecting four steals and three boards. Senior Lauren Brandau (Madison, Conn.) pulled down a game-high 12 rebounds to go along with five points. Junior Kirra Courchesne (Wilmington, Vt.) chipped in with nine points off the Simmons bench.

Leading 13-12 following a back-and-fourth first quarter, the Blue used a 15-4 second quarter run to take a 12-point lead, 28-16, when Kopp hit a jumper with just under a minute left until the half. However, a put-back layup at the buzzer from Simmons sophomore Denae Douglas (Towson, Md.) would send the teams into the half with the score 28-18. The Blue scored 13 points off of 14 first-half turnovers, while shooting 50 percent (12-for-24) from the field.

Following the break, Simmons used an 11-0 third quarter run to cut a 12-point deficit all the way to one, at 31-30, at 5:04. Kopp got the Blue back on the board with a pair of free throws at 2:05, but Suzie Cosme (Framingham, Mass.) cut the lead back to one with two from the stripe at 1:36. A fast-break layup from Aguirre with seven seconds left in the third quarter made the score 35-32, as the teams moved into the fourth with the Blue holding on to a three-point advantage.  

A Valentina Morakis (Long Island, N.Y.) layup to start the fourth pushed the Wellesley advantage to 37-32, but five straight Simmons points tied the contest for the first time since the 2:16 mark of the second, as Stapelfeld hit a triple and Courchesne dropped in a layup on back-to-back possessions to make the score 37-37. 

The Blue regained the lead when Jada Wiltz (Lafayette, La.) hit the second of two free throws at 5:48. Ayub then knocked down a jumper at 5:10 to give the Blue a 40-37 lead. Courchesne cut into the lead to one, at 40-39, with a layup at 4:42, but the Sharks were unable to rally past the Blue in the closing minutes. Wellesley countered with a 9-5 run, capped by a pair of big buckets from Aguirre, to take a 49-43 lead with 40 seconds remaining. Simmons added a pair of late buckets but ran out of time as the Blue held on for the 50-48 victory.

The Blue had a 34-29 advantage in rebounds. Wellesley finished the game shooting 39.2 percent (20-for-51) from the floor, while Simmons countered at 36.5 percent (19-for-52). 

Wellesley returns home to host Worcester State at 1:00 PM on Sunday, November 25. Simmons will travel to the Dr. Betty Shabazz Tournament to take on Old Westbury on Saturday, November 24 at 3:00 PM.