BENNINGTON, Vt. — It was a night to remember for the Southern Vermont College women's basketball team as a number of various records were registered on Tuesday in the hosting Mountaineers' 89-84 overtime victory against New England College in non-conference action at the Mountaineer Athletic Center.
The win is SVC's first against the Pilgrims in 13 all-time meetings, improving the team's season record to 6-2 for its most victories before the break in program history. Leading the way in the Mountaineers' fourth straight win was senior captain Amber Flagg (Windsor, Conn.) who notched 40 points for the most in team history, topping the previous high mark of 38 set by Southern Vermont Hall of Famer Denise Welch.
Flagg had 13 points in the first quarter, giving her 1,493 for her career to break the SVC all-time scoring record of 1,492 set by Joa Claircius. The captain finished the night with 1,521 total career points, making her just the second Mountaineer ever from either basketball program to break the 1,500 plateau. She now sits 249 points behind Charles Beekman who owns the SVC men's program and school high of 1,770.
Southern Vermont led most of the way Tuesday night, taking a 48-43 lead into the halftime intermission. SVC was still up by five after the third quarter before New England came back to pull ahead late in the fourth. The Mountaineers went on top by three with just 30 seconds left in regulation, but a Pilgrim three-pointer with 13 ticks to go and an ensuing SVC miss on the other end sent the game to the extra session.
NEC scored the first four points of overtime, only to see Southern Vermont respond with a 9-2 run to regain the upper hand. Free throws were exchanged down the stretch with SVC hitting its final 10 attempts at the charity stripe, eight straight by Flagg, to pull out the exhilarating non-league win.
The Mountaineers are now off until after the New Year, resuming play on Monday, January 4 with a 6 p.m. tip-off at Massachusetts College of Liberal Arts. NEC turns back to North Atlantic Conference action this weekend, first heading to Maine Maritime Academy on Friday for a 5:30 p.m. start.
Flagg added a game-high seven assists and four rebounds to her line, going 15-15 on free throw attempts while three SVC starters notched double-doubles in the front court. Senior Kala MacKenzie (Fair Haven, Vt.) notched season-highs of 20 points and 14 boards and blocked three Pilgrim shots on the night. Classmate Turquoia Johnson (Rockville, Md.) added 10 points and a team-best 15 rebounds while fellow senior Shaniquewa Barnes (Landover, Md.) had 10 points, 13 caroms and four assists.
Three Pilgrims notched at least 20 points on the evening, junior Utshana Durham (Brooklyn, N.Y.) leading the team with 24 while adding five blocks. Senior captain Maranda Parker (Huntsville, Utah) followed with 22 points and three assists as she went 6-10 on three-pointers, and junior LaQuil McNight (Paterson, N.J.) tallied 20 points, four rebounds, five assists and two steals off the bench. Junior Breana Ramirez (Paterson, N.J.) pulled down a game-high 16 rebounds to go along with her nine points, and senior Tiffany Davis (Baltimore, Md.) chipped in with 14 boards in the effort.
Southern Vermont went 31-76 (40.8 percent) from the floor while New England was close behind with a 28-81 (34.6 percent) clip in field goal range. Both teams fared well from beyond the arc, NEC going 9-21 (42.9 percent) as the Mountaineers were 7-14 (50 percent) on three-pointers. The Pilgrims took a narrow 52-51 edge on the glass, and both sides scored 15 second-chance points on the night. Southern Vermont had a 36-22 advantage in the paint, but New England grabbed a 20-14 edge in points off turnovers.
NEC won the opening tip and set up Parker for a three-pointer, but SVC answered with a Barnes jumper on the other end for the first two of 10 unanswered points; Flagg drilled a pair of treys in that time as she inched closer to breaking the Mountaineer scoring record. The downtown baskets continued for Southern Vermont as junior captain Amber Dow (Vergennes, Vt.) sent home one of her own before a pair of Pilgrim jumpers cut it to a 13-8 Mountaineer lead midway through the opening quarter.
Flagg would score seven straight for SVC, the last three coming on an and-one play. She got a layup to go while drawing the foul, forcing NEC to use a timeout in an attempt to quash the Mountaineer momentum; that stoppage allowed Flagg to be recognized in front of the MAC faithful as the basket was enough to give her sole possession of the program record. A New England jumper with 40 seconds left made it a 22-12 Southern Vermont lead going into the second quarter.
SVC started the next period on a 7-2 run, Flagg hitting a three to start the spurt that gave the hosts their biggest lead of the night. NEC started to heat up from downtown as a consecutive pair of Pilgrim treys came during a 10-2 New England run that cut the deficit to 31-24. A Barnes layup was answered on the ensuing possession by a deep basket from Parker, but Flagg responded with a triple of her own on the other end to keep SVC up by nine with 3:58 to go in the half.
Parker added another bucket from outside the arc before Durham hit a jumper to make it a five-point game, only to see MacKenzie and Johnson register field goals to increase the separation. Parker nailed another three and then two free throws to once again cut it to four, but Johnson and MacKenzie again teamed up for a pair of baskets for the eight-point advantage. With time running out in the half, New England ran the floor and got the ball to Parker who rushed to get a shot off, launching a three off the glass and into the hoop from 10 feet behind the line to make it a 48-43 contest going into the break. Both teams shot well from the floor in the second quarter, NEC going 10-15 (66.7 percent) while the Mountaineers were 12-19 (63.2 percent).
Southern Vermont began the second half with a 7-2 run to go up by 10, but New England kept pace with baskets on the other end to keep the game in reach. Scoring went back-and-forth with neither side tallying more than four straight points through the rest of the third quarter. Parker hit a jumper with 1:45 to go in the stanza, and a McKnight free throw would be the only point in the remainder of the frame as the game went to the final scheduled period with SVC clinging onto a 66-61 edge.
The Mountaineers scored the first basket of the fourth, Flagg cutting down the lane to draw in the NEC defense before making a nice, bouncing dish across the paint to an open MacKenzie for the easy lay-in. The Pilgrims came back, Ramirez converting and old-fashioned three-point play before McKnight sunk a pair of three throws to get within two at 68-66. Flagg then took a pass from MacKenzie at the top of the key and banged home a jumper before both teams went scoreless over the next two minutes. Durham broke the scoring drought with a layup at the 3:55 mark, and McKnight followed with a three-pointer soon-after to give New England its first lead since the start of the contest.
A pair of Flagg free throws put her team back on top, and another two-minutes of scoreless action ensued as the Pilgrims could not retake the lead. MacKenzie hit a huge put-back layup with 30 seconds to go to put SVC up by three, but a Mountaineer turnover after a missed NEC three-pointer gave the visitors one last chance. The Pilgrims got the ball in the hands of junior Marjani Lillard (Bowie, Md.), and she was able to set herself on the right edge of the arc before draining a big-time three to tie things at 74-74. Southern Vermont called a timeout to draw up a play, but Flagg could not get a last-second layup to go as the game went for the extra period.
Neither squad could find the bottom of the basket in the first 1:14 of overtime before the teams settled in and started to get their offenses going. McKnight put home a layup for the NEC lead, and Durham followed with one of her own to put New England in front by four. Flagg responded with a trey on the next trip down the floor, and a pair of 1-2 performances at the line by the Mountaineers gave them a slim 79-78 upper hand. Durham would get fouled in the act of shooting, as NEC was still not in the bonus, and converted both attempts at the charity stripe as the Pilgrims went ahead 80-79 with 1:28 left on the clock.
Flagg drew a foul on the next possession and sunk both of her free throw attempts, and a missed New England shot gave way for her to do it again to put Southern Vermont in front 83-80. A single Pilgrim free throw cut it to two, but Flagg was immediately fouled once again on the in-bounds; she would knock down both ends of her double bonus trip, putting SVC on top 85-81. McKnight would be fouled on the next play, but a 1-2 visit to the line saw Southern Vermont still lead by three. In the hopes for a pair of missed shots, New England again fouled Flagg, but the senior calmly continued her hot hand as the captain notched her 39th and 40th points of the night for the five-point advantage. Johnson the made another pair of free throws in the waning seconds to seal the deal for Southern Vermont.
SVC scored 74 points in regulation, doing so against an NEC team that entered the night allowing just 50.9 points per game to rank 25th in all of NCAA Division III.