Chris Kendrick (@CKendrick86)
CHICOPEE, Mass. – The Elms College women's basketball squad led wire-to-wire in a 72-59 win over visiting Wheelock College in a New England Collegiate Conference (NECC) battle at Picknelly Arena Saturday afternoon. With the win, the Blazers improve to 5-5 overall and 3-1 in the NECC, while the Wildcats dip to 1-3 in conference play, and 3-7 on the season.
The Blazers came out of the gates hot, racing to an 11-0 lead in the opening five minutes of play behind six points from senior Alexandra Marques (Newington, Conn.). Wheelock sophomore Katie Walsh (East Islip, N.Y.) put the Wildcats on the board at the 4:55 mark, and then delivered a three-point play to trim the gap to 15-7 with 2:52 on the clock. Elms outscored Wheelock, 6-2, to close that quarter with a 21-9 advantage.
The Blazers maintained a double-digit lead early in the second quarter behind jumpers from freshman Rachel Granger (Hampden, Mass.) and senior Emily Burr (East Hartford, Conn.). At the 5:38 mark, Wheelock senior Michelle Woods (Wilmington, Mass.) knocked down a jumper brought the deficit to single digits, 26-17, but back-to-back buckets from Burr and Granger regained a 32-19 lead. Woods delivered a buzzer-beating half-court shot to cut the gap to 32-22 at the break.
Marques made her presence felt in the third quarter, outscoring the Wildcats 8-2 in a five-minute span, including a jumper at the 4:56 mark to give the Blazers their largest lead of the game, 41-24. After consecutive baskets from Elms freshman Kayla Soto (New Britain, Conn.) pushed the advantage to 45-28, the Wildcats closed the quarter with a 6-1 run to close the deficit to 46-34.
Elms rebuilt a 56-39 lead at the 5:49 mark of the fourth quarter behind five points from freshman Molly Moulton (North Adams, Mass.). Wheelock mounted a final comeback attempt, orchestrating a 14-6 run over the next four minutes, powered by five-point efforts from Woods and Walsh, trimming the Elms lead to 62-53 with 1:46 to play. Elms junior Mackenzie LaRochelle (Chicopee, Mass.) delivered a crucial three-point play to halt the Wildcats run, and Moulton went 4-for-4 from the foul line down the stretch to seal the 72-59 victory.
"I thought we showed a great team effort tonight," said Elms College Head Coach Michelle Proulx. "We played defense from the start and had a really good first quarter, which is something we've been emphasizing. [Wheelock] has players that can score ina variety of ways, so we knew we would have to play a great defensive game to have a chance, and I think that's what caught [Wheelock] off guard in the first quarter. We showed a lot of composure for a young team, especially being able to make free throws at the end of the game. Next week is a huge week for us, so we need to come out prepared on Monday, but I've told the team as long as we play great defense, we can compete with anyone."
The Blazers had four scorers in double figures, led by Marques, who logged her fifth double-double of the season with a team-high 16 points and a team-high 11 rebounds. Moulton netted 13 points and matched a career-high with eight rebounds and three assists. LaRochelle flirted with a triple-double, dropping 10 points with a game-high eight assists, seven rebounds, and three blocks. Sophomore Chaniah Pantry (New Haven, Conn.) added 10 points and six rebounds, while Burr had nine points and six rebounds. Soto registered career-highs with nine rebounds and eight points in the win.
Walsh paced the Wildcats with a double-double effort, recording game-highs in points and rebounds with 19 and 13, respectively. Woods chipped in 16 points, a game-high five steals and four rebounds, while senior Brianna Hochwarter (Attleboro, Mass.) had 10 points and three rebounds.
The Blazers edged the Wildcats in rebounding (53-42), points in the paint (52-32) and bench points (14-11) during the contest. Elms connected on 47.6% (30-of-63) from the field and 54.5% (12-of-22) from the free throw line. Wheelock shot 27.5% (19-of-69) from the floor, 22.2% (2-of-9) from three-point range, and 55.9% (19-of-34) from the free throw stripe.
The Blazers will look to remain in the win column when they host Becker College in an NECC clash at Picknelly Arena Tuesday night at 7:00 p.m. Wheelock travels to Lesley in conference action Tuesday at 8:00 p.m.