Kaleigh Anderson (@KaleighAnd1)
CHICOPEE, Mass. – The Elms College Women's Basketball team battled start-to-finish against the visiting Newbury Nighthawks during their 2016-17 New England Collegiate Conference (NECC) opener Tuesday evening at Picknelly Arena. With the win, the Blazers rise to 3-2 on the season and own a 1-0 mark in conference action, while the Nighthawks drop to 0-4 overall and 0-1 in the NECC.
The Nighthawks started off the competition off of the hands of sophomore Savannah Olsen (Battle Creek, Mich.) who found the backboard for the easy two within the first ten seconds of the game. From there, both squads dispatched defensive pressure with the Blazers eventually cracking the scoreboard at the 7:40 mark after a junior Destiny Spears (Arnold, Md.) foul sent junior Mackenzie LaRochelle (Chicopee, Mass.) to the line post the 2-1 scoreboard. Elms would capture their first lead of the evening at 6:37 after senior Emily Burr (East Hartford, Conn.) grabbed an offensive rebound and delivered a putback off the glass. Despite Elms efforts Newbury would head into the second owning the advantage as Olsen closed out the scoring column with the first three of the night to produce the 12-9 board.
Elms senior Alexandra Marques (Newington, Conn.) began the Blazers run within the second quarter as she posted back-to-back free throw attempts from the stripe to keep the total within one. At the 8:06 mark, sophomore Nakia Mabin (Bridgeport, Conn.) would come up big for Elms as she captured a crucial offensive rebound and provided the tip in to give the squad back the advantage which in turn sparked offensive momentum. The Blazers posted six tallies off of fast break opportunities within the quarter while capturing 16 points inside the paint with Marques leading the way totaling six of her own while snagging eight rebounds. Elms would eventually walk into the locker room owning a 28-26 advantage with Burr closing out the scoring efforts with a fast break layup before the buzzer.
Tensions were high at the start of the third with Mabin and Burr each going 2-for-2 at the stripe to widen the Blazer advantage to 32-26. However, Spears would combat with a Nighthawk jumper to give the contest its next spin as she would continue on a seven point run of her own to tie up the game. Sophomore Kayla Aberdale (Housatonic, Mass.) would respond for the Blazers notching the first Elms three of the night at the 6:29 mark to keep the Blazers ahead by two. Both teams continued on back-to-back runs down the court with Newbury totaling 14 points in the paint to Elms 12 throughout the quarter. With 27 seconds remaining in the third, Newbury sophomore Taylor Kelley (North Billerica, Mass.) would post up for Newbury harnessing a crucial layup to send the Nighthawks into the fourth owning a 52-50 scoreboard.
The first minute of play in the fourth went unscathed as neither team could find a bucket. Nevertheless, the Blazers found their groove at 8:48 off of a Burr jumper to which Newbury would respond with a senior Brittany Beals (Lawrence, Mass.) layup of their own. LaRochelle would play a crucial role in the remaining quarter totaling six points alongside four rebounds attached to a steal to aid in the eventual victory. Despite Spears four tallies for the Nighthawks, the Blazers were able to post a 22-9 scoring advantage in the quarter capturing eight fast break opportunities in the triumph as Elms walked away owning a 72-61 scoreboard.
"It feels good to get a win to open conference play," said Elms College Head Coach Michelle Proulx. "I think we came together and really stepped up defensively in the fourth quarter, and that's what got us the win. We started running a lot better in the second half which makes our offense easier, and we starting hitting shots which freed up space in the post. One of the great things about our team is that we are very balanced in terms of scoring, and it's one of our strengths when we have multiple players who can go off. We need to work on maintaining our defensive effort throughout the whole game and starting the game with that defensive intensity we showed in the fourth quarter today."
The Blazers had five scorers reach double-digit point totals, led by a team-high 18 points from Burr. Marques logged a double-double with a game-high 16 rebounds and 10 points, while LaRochelle stuffed the stat sheet with 15 points, nine rebounds, six assists, and three steals. Mabin delivered 12 points, nine rebounds and a career-high four blocks; and Aberdale came off the bench with 12 points and seven rebounds.
Olsen powered the Nighthawks with a game-high 30 points, shooting 11-of-20 from the floor, with six rebounds. Spears notched a double-double with 18 points and 10 rebounds, while Beals grabbed a team-high 11 rebounds in the loss.
The Blazers edged the Nighthawks in rebounds (62-42) and bench points (15-1). Elms shot 38.7% from the field (29-75), including 15.4% from the three-point line (2-13), and 54.5% from the foul line (12-22). Newbury shot 32.4% from the floor (23-71), 22.9% from three point range (2-9), and 54.2% from the foul line (13-24).
The Blazers will play host to Daniel Webster in an NECC matchup at Picknelly Arena December 1st for a 7 p.m. start. The Nighthawks will travel to Lesley University Thursday for an 8 p.m. start time.