Kaleigh Anderson (@KaleighAnd1)
CHICOPEE, Mass. – The Elms College women's basketball squad topped NECC rival Mitchell College, 81-60, in an intense back and forth battle at Picknelly Arena Saturday afternoon. With the win, the Blazers rise to 10-8 overall and 8-3 in the NECC, while the Mariners fall to 5-6 in conference play, and 10-8 on the season.
The Blazers took charge of the opening minutes of action with an initial tally off the hands of sophomore Chaniah Pantry (New Haven, Conn.) 18 seconds into the contest to which the Mariners combatted with a layup of their own as senior Jessica Shepard (West Hartford, Conn.) connected off the glass. Pantry would go on to lead the quarter for Elms capturing a team high six points going 3-for-3 from the paint. Shepard would lead all scorers in the first with seven tallies as she buried the first three point score of the afternoon at the 4:29 marker. However Elms would prevail heading into the second owning a 20-11 scoreboard.
Elms continued to prevail throughout the second with junior Mackenzie LaRochelle (Chicopee, Mass.) initiating momentum a minute in off the backboard. Shepard would come out strong for Mitchell capturing back to back three point stingers to keep hope alive posting a 22-17 score. Freshman Molly Moulton (North Adams, Mass.) would prove strong at the charity stripe going 4-for-4 at the line to keep the Elms advantage strong. Freshman Jessica Lohneiss (West Hartford, Conn.) would combat for Mitchell knocking down two three point attempts of her own in an attempt to close the gap. Blazer freshman Rachel Granger (Hampden, Mass.) proved strong off the bench knocking down her first two scores to produce a 37-28 Elms lead. The Blazers would nurse this gain to the final buzzer closing out the scoring column with a beautiful LaRochelle ball that found Alexandra Marques on the inside for the last chance basket.
The Mariners entered the third posting the first mark as an Junior Ashleigh Beauford (Newington, Conn.) layup found its home. LaRochelle would harness her first three of the evening at the 8:33 marker to which Mitchell would retaliate with two three point blasts of their own off the hands of Shepard and Beauford to keep Mitchell within seven. However Elms continued to raise momentum pushing down the court capturing seven total second chance baskets to head into the fourth owning a 65-50 scoreboard.
Elms outscored the Mariners in the fourth 14-10 with Pantry leading the scoring column with seven scores of her own. Freshman Shannon Cullen (Brookfield, Conn.) closed out the scoring efforts for the Blazers capturing her first three of the night to which Mitchell answered with a freshman Jordan Lohneiss (West Hartford, Conn.) three point strike however it wouldn't be enough as the Blazers won the contest posting a 81-60 score.
"I thought it was a full team effort from top to bottom," said Elms Head Coach Michelle Proulx. "We've been focusing a lot on our defense and rebounding, all aspects of our defense, and we came out with great energy from the tip. One of the big things we've also been working on is, if you make a mistake, bouncing back from it quickly and focusing on the next play. We made a couple mistakes here and there on the defensive end, but we corrected them quickly and didn't' make the same mistakes twice. With Chaniah [Pantry] and Alex [Marques], we wanted them to go after the offensive rebounds, because we knew we'd be bigger than [Mitchell] at almost every position, so they did great job today. Mackenzie [LaRochelle] did a great job attacking the rim and hit a couple jumpers, which huge for her because she hasn't been super confident with her jump shot, but we've been telling her to be a little more selfish going to the rim because she always tries to make that great extra pass and she's great at finding her teammates. We found our shooters and our post players really well today, and I thought our post players weren't hiding as much and found areas in the paint. We knew this week and next week are huge for us. We have a big game against Daniel Webster Tuesday, they played us tough in our first meeting, and they are a tough team to guard, especially for a traditional team with post players like us, and then our rematch at Becker on Thursday. We know these are must-win games, we know every practice and every game is a must-win situation, and we'll be ready on Tuesday."
The Blazers had three scorers in double figures, led by LaRochelle, who logged a team-high 20 points alongside 11 rebounds. Pantry totaled 17 scores and 12 rebounds on the afternoon while Molly Moulton captured 15 points going 6-for-6 at the charity stripe.
Mitchell was paced by Shepared's game high 22 points as she went 8-for-16 from the floor. Beauford totaled seven points on the night as well as junior Lehayla Cruz (Bridgeport, Conn).
The Blazers edged the Mariners in points in the paint (38-20) and second chance points (15-10) during the contest. Elms connected on 46.0% (29-63) from the field and 62.1% (18-29) from the free throw line. Mitchell shot 30.0% (70-21) from the floor, 32.1% (9-28) from three-point range, and 60.0% (9-15) from the free throw stripe.
The Blazers will look to remain in the win column when they travel to Daniel Webster for an NECC matchup January 31st for a 5:30p.m. start time. The Mariners will play host to Bay Path on the 21st as well at 5:30p.m.