BENNINGTON, Vt. — A marquee matchup between two teams that entered Saturday afternoon at 5-1 in the New England Collegiate Conference (NECC) saw the visiting Wheelock College Wildcats take away an 87-84 overtime win against Southern Vermont College at the Mountaineer Athletic Center.
Wheelock led 36-30 at halftime and extended its upper hand to 12 going into the fourth quarter. SVC bounced back to tie the game late in the last period of regulation before a final Mountaineer attempt as time expired went wayward. WC took the edge in the extra session, going up by three to close out the league victory.
Southern Vermont falls to 8-6 on the year and 5-2 in NECC action while Wheelock improves to 10-2 overall and 6-1 against the Conference. Both teams play next at 7 p.m. on Wednesday, SVC hosting Elms College for an NECC showdown while the Wildcats visit Daniel Webster College for a league tilt.
Mountaineer senior Shaniquewa Barnes (Landover, Md.) led all players with a career-high 26 points, adding 12 rebounds for her fifth double-double of the year. Classmate and captain Amber Flagg (Windsor, Conn.) followed with 23 points while notching a game-best seven rebounds, and sophomore Chloe Longe (Enosburg Falls, Vt.) provided 13 points, seven rebounds and two assists off the SVC bench. Senior Turquoia Johnson (Rockville, Md.) chipped in with six points and 11 boards, adding two assists and a pair of steals in the effort.
Five Wildcats reached double figures in the points column, being led by junior Brianna Hochwarter (Attleboro, Mass.) who went 8-14 from outside the arc to notch 24 on the day. Freshman Katie Walsh (East Islip, N.Y.) had 15 points to go along with her 12 boards for the double-double, and junior Michelle Woods (Wilmington, Mass.) dropped 19 points while grabbing six boards and dishing out four assists. Junior Jaime Grzych (Columbia, Conn.) registered 12 points, four steals, three assists and three rebounds, and junior Emily Doyle (Lynn, Mass.) tallied 11 points, four rebounds and a pair of assists in reserve time.
SVC shot 40 percent (30-75) on the day from field goal range, being topped by Wheelock's 44.1 percent (26-59). The Mountaineers owned a 46-41 edge on the boards, but WC had a 26-18 advantage in points off turnovers. Southern Vermont outscored the Wildcats in the paint by a 42-28 margin, only to see Wheelock connect on 11 three-pointers to SVC's four.
The first quarter was a back-and-forth battle with neither team leading by more than four at any point in the frame. Southern Vermont went on top three times in the opening six minutes, but Wheelock was able to answer on each occasion to tie things up. Flagg and Barnes each nailed jumpers for SVC to go ahead 10-6 with 2:43 to go in the period before a pair of free throws preceded a Doyle trey for Wheelock to take its first lead of the day at 11-10. A Hochwarter three was followed by Flagg going 1-for-2 at the line, and a WC turnover then allowed Longe to drop in a layup right before the horn for the Mountaineers to take a 15-14 lead.
Wheelock reclaimed the upper hand to start the second and then scored 15 straight for a strong 29-15 advantage. Hochwarter drained a pair of threes in that stretch after Woods put home the first four of the run. Johnson tallied a pair of baskets to make it a 10-point deficit, but Doyle answered with another bucket from downtown to extend the lead. Southern Vermont closed out the final two minutes of the half on an 8-2 spurt, Barnes supplying four of those points while SVC was aided by a pair of missed Wildcat free throws. Barnes got a layup to go with just a few ticks on the clock, sending the game to intermission with WC up 36-30.
Walsh scored the first five Wheelock points while Longe notched the opening six Southern Vermont points of the period, making it a 44-36 Wildcat advantage midway through the frame. Hochwarter sunk her fifth three of the contest to put it back to a double-digit lead, but Flagg answered with one of her own on the ensuing possession as the teams went back-and-forth. Wheelock would end the quarter with five unanswered points to go in front 55-43, three of those coming at the free throw line.
Hochwarter began the final 10 minutes of regulation with another trey to give Wheelock what would be its biggest lead of the day at 58-43, and Doyle added an additional basket from downtown a minute later to maintain the separation. That's when the tides turned, however, as a Longe three started an 18-3 Mountaineer run that saw the hosts get back in front; Barnes tallied eight of those SVC points while junior captain Amber Dow (Vergennes, Vt.) banked home a triple from the left side as the shot clock was expiring. A fifth Wheelock foul at the 2:22 mark sent Barnes to the line with the double bonus, and the senior was able to hit both shots for Southern Vermont to take a 67-66 lead.
Grzych followed a single Woods freebie with a layup for the Wildcats to grab a 70-69 edge as only 1:17 remained on the clock. Flagg took the ball and went at the hoop, getting a layup to go while drawing the foul; she would convert the old-fashioned three-point play to put her team back in front. Wheelock had its chances at the line down the stretch, but a pair of misses allowed the Mountaineers to have a chance. Grzyc h went 1-of-2 at the line, and a pair of SVC turnovers then gave way for Woods to set the score at 72-70 on a layup with 39 seconds to go.
After a Southern Vermont timeout, Dow spotted up and knocked down another big-time three-pointer to put the Mountaineers up by one, but an SVC foul then sent Grzych back to the line with only 19 ticks left. She would miss the backend of her double bonus, allowing the hosts to use another timeout and chalk up their final play. A staunch Wildcat defense stymied the SVC push for the win, an errant Flagg jumper sending the game to overtime.
Foul trouble hurt both teams in the extra five-minute session as two Mountaineers and one Wildcat were sent out of the game after their fifth personal, the third and second players to foul-out of the game for each side, respectively. The lead changed nine times in the frame as the teams battled while trading scores. Barnes dropped in a layup with 1:34 left to make it 80-78 in favor of SVC, but Hochwarter responded with a three on the next trip down the floor to put Wheelock up by one. Barnes came right back with another bucket from down low, only to see a foul send Grzych back to the free throw line; the Wildcat would hit both for WC to go up 83-82 with 50 seconds left on the clock.
An offensive rebound then allowed Southern Vermont sophomore Danielle Simmons (Rensselaer, N.Y.) to hit a jumper for the upper hand to move back the Mountaineers' way. WC utilized its overtime stoppage and got the ball to Woods, and the junior was able to lay in a bucket for the Wildcat advantage. Southern Vermont couldn't connect on its go-ahead attempt before a foul sent Doyle back to the line with just over a second left; she would hit both, and the Wheelock inbound press then prevented SVC from getting off a last-ditch effort as the visitors celebrated their league triumph.