Comeback Bid Falls Just Short For Wellesley Basketball at NEC, 62-55

First year Rachel Shurberg added five boards and two steals in 17 minutes off the bench (Frank Poulin).
First year Rachel Shurberg added five boards and two steals in 17 minutes off the bench (Frank Poulin).

HENNIKER, N.H. -- Wellesley College basketball rallied from a 13-point first half deficit to take a fourth quarter lead, but ultimately fell just short, 62-55, to New England College (NEC) in an entertaining non-conference game on Tuesday evening at Bridges Gym.

Senior Rene Hudson (Gallatin, Tenn.) scored a game-high 24 points to lead NEC (9-3 overall). Hudson finished 6-of-13 from the floor but was a perfect 8-for-8 from the line in 39 minutes of action, adding nine rebounds, three assists, and a pair of steals. Sophomore Brianna Pierreval (Boynton Beach, Fla.) added nine points and sophomore Kayla Goldring (Hollywodd, Md.) chipped in with eight points and three boards off the NEC bench. Senior Daleia Boutwell (Dorchester, Mass.) added eight boards.

Senior Caitlin Aguirre (El Paso, Texas) scored 19 points, dished out seven assists, and collected four steals to lead the Blue (7-3 overall). Aguirre is now just 43 points shy of 1,000 in her Wellesley College career. Junior Alyssa Cho (Hillsborough, Calif.) added 13 points in 28 minutes of action and first year Jiyun Chae (Chantilly, Va.) tallied seven points, two assists and two steals. First year Rachel Shurberg (Fairfax, Va.) added five boards and two steals in 17 minutes off the Blue bench.

It was a tale of two very different quarters for the Blue in the first half. The host Pilgrims got out to a 13-point lead at the end of the quarter, outscoring Wellesley 22-9 through the opening 10 minutes of play. Trailing 10-4 at the midway point of the first, the Blue got two from senior Emily Kopp (King Ferry, N.Y.) and a triple from Chae to cut the deficit to 10-9, but NEC closed out the quarter with a 12-0 run to take its largest lead of the game.

The Blue responded with a strong defensive effort in the second quarter to pull back into the game. Aguirre scored seven of her team-high 19 in the frame as Wellesley outscored NEC, 17-5, in the second stanza. Wellesley's second quarter dominance included an 11-2 run to start the quarter and was capped by a jumper from Kopp in the final minute that would send the teams to the locker room with Wellesley trailing but just one, 27-26, at the half.

Wellesley tied the game three times during a back-and-forth third quarter, with the last tie score coming at 41-41 when Chae hit a layup in the dying-seconds of the quarter. Aguirre put the Blue ahead to start the fourth quarter, hitting a triple at 8:39 to give Wellesley its largest lead of the game, 44-41. However, NEC would go on to outscore the Blue 21-11 over the final 8:20 of regulation. Hudson scored 13 of her game-high 24 points in the final eight minutes and was a perfect 6-for-6 from the stripe in the final minute to seal the 62-55 victory for NEC.

Wellesley finished the contest 22-for-61 (36.1%) from the floor. NEC was 20-for-52 (38.5%) on field goals but had a 17-7 advantage in free throws made and a 41-21 advantage on the glass.

Both teams return to the court on Saturday, January 11, at 1:00 PM. The Blue will continue its non-conference schedule against Pine Manor College while NEC will travel to Bay Pay for a New England Collegiate Conference match-up.