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Monday, Apr 22, 2024

Women's Basketball a Leg Up on the Competition

Author: Emily Berlanstein Staff Writer

Although the members of the women's basketball team were forced to spend most of their Thanksgiving vacation in the gym, their dedication is surely being rewarded as they begin the season on quite a positive note. The Panthers are 4-0 thus far and have snagged the top ranking in the New England Small College Athletic Conference (NESCAC) by handily defeating Johnson & Wales (J&W) and Western Connecticut in the J&W Tournament, as well as St. Joseph's (Vt.) and Williams.

Leading by only six points at halftime, the Panthers came up big against J&W in the opening round of the tournament. Led by Captain Megan McCosker '02, who recorded 20 points, six steals and four assists, the Panthers rallied to outscore J&W 46-19 in the second half. J&W also committed 24 turnovers as a result of the tenacious Panther defense. Kristin Hanley '03 balanced out the attack with 10 points.

In the championship game, the Panthers defeated Western Connecticut 69-44. Wesley Hyatt '03, who scored 18 points and grabbed eight rebounds, combined with Hanley (15 points and 10 rebounds), sparked the offense to a 15-2 run early in the second half, which clinched the win for Middlebury. Alexis Batten '04 was also a significant offensive threat by contributing 12 points and nine rebounds. First-year guard Karen Lee observed that the Panthers were virtually unthreatened in both games because their superior conditioning created a number of offensive opportunities. She added that the tournament was "fun to watch" because the Panthers seemed to execute every move flawlessly. Based on their notable individual accomplishments, three Panthers received post-tournament honors. Hanley was named the J&W Tournament M.V.P. and McCosker and Hyatt were selected to the All-Tournament Team.

Last Tuesday, the Panthers continued to dominate as they traveled to nearby Rutland to take on The College of St. Joseph. Behind Hanley and McCosker, the offensive momentum was present from the get-go, as the Panthers accumulated a 41-16 halftime lead. The combination of offensive fervor and defensive intensity was certainly the key to Middlebury's success, as the Panthers forced 34 turnovers and shot an impressive 55 percent from the field. Hanley finished with 15 points and McCosker with 10 points and 12 assists.

In a more closely matched game, the Panthers defeated Williams 59-45 last Tuesday. Both teams were unbeaten, so the victory allowed Middlebury to clench a leading spot in the NESCAC as they head into more league competition. The game was one of defensive determination on both parts, as neither team shot very well from the field. The Panthers hit just 19 of 62 shots from the floor; however, on the free throw line the Panthers hit 88 percent and managed to outshoot Williams 18-6.

The Panthers got out to an early lead, 30-18 at half time, behind excellent performances from Hanley (10 first-half points) and Batten (12 first-half points). But they could not seem to break away in the second half, as Williams aggressively battled back. The Ephs cut the lead to one on a three pointer by Kate Stumpo with 3:43 left to play. Luckily, the Panthers found themselves on the line frequently during the remaining minutes of the game and managed to accumulate 10 consecutive free throw points. Hanley and Batten finished with 16 points each and McCosker added 13 points. McCosker, the league's current assist leader, recorded a game-high five assists. She is averaging seven assists per game as well as 3 steals. Hanley is also among the NESCAC's statistical leaders, averaging 14.3 points per game and shooting 64.3 percent from the three-point line.

This week, the Panthers play at Skidmore on Tuesday and at home against Green Mountain College on Thursday. Undoubtedly the team is geared up for its home opener and hopes to continue its impressive winning streak.