BENNINGTON, Vt. — Great free throw shooting down the stretch helped the Southern Vermont College women's basketball team outscore Elms College by 12 points in the final quarter Wednesday night to win 58-47 in New England Collegiate Conference (NECC) action at the Mountaineer Athletic Center.
SVC improves to 9-6 overall on the season and 6-2 against the league while the Blazers fall to 6-9, 5-3 in NECC play. The win is just the third for Southern Vermont in 16 all-time meetings with EC, now having won the last two between the sides after knocking Elms out of the Conference postseason last year.
The Mountaineers now set their sights on Saturday's 1 p.m. road game at top-standing Regis College, a team undefeated in NECC action. Elms next hosts Bay Path University on Saturday, tip-off scheduled for 2 p.m.
Southern Vermont senior forward Shaniquewa Barnes (Landover, Md.) notched her sixth double-double of the year with game-highs of 20 points and 20 rebounds, going 8-9 from the free throw line in the win. Her 20 boards are a career-high and are the most registered by an SVC player since Christie Henry did the same against Elms back on November 9, 2010.
Mountaineer senior captain Amber Flagg (Windsor, Conn.) followed with 13 points, five rebounds, five steals and three assists while sophomore Chloe Longe (Enosburg Falls, Vt.) chipped in with 10 points, seven boards and four steals. Senior Kala MacKenzie (Fair Haven, Vt.) had eight rebounds and seven blocks, and classmate Turquoia Johnson (Rockville, Md.) grabbed another eight caroms in reserve time.
Elms was led by graduate captain J.C. Pickett (Chicopee, Mass.) who tallied 16 points and 14 rebounds, adding four steals and three blocks to her line. Junior Alexandra Marques (Newington, Conn.) recorded nine points, 10 rebounds and three blocks, and junior Emily Burr (East Hartford, Conn.) chipped in with another nine points, five boards, three steals and two assists. Blazer senior Mariah Brown (Windsor Locks, Conn.) scored five points and nabbed four rebounds while dishing out a game-best four assists.
Both teams struggled from the floor, SVC shooting 27 percent (17-63) to Elms' 23.6 percent (17-72). The Mountaineers had a 61-48 advantage on the glass, using its offensive boards for a 14-8 edge in second-chance points. Each side had 22 points in the paint, and the Blazers outscored Southern Vermont 16-12 in points off turnovers.
SVC scored the first basket of the night when Longe took the opening tip and notched her first two points, only to see Elms answer with the next eight on help from four points by both Marques and Pickett. A Barnes jumper made it 10-6 midway through the first quarter, but EC then tallied nine unanswered for what would be its biggest lead of the night (19-6). Four Blazers registered buckets in that stretch before Southern Vermont senior Marissa Myers (Chatham, N.Y.) drained a three with 31 ticks left to make it a 19-9 game going into the second period.
The two squads battled back-and-forth through the ensuing six minutes of play, neither side scoring more than two consecutive points as Elms maintained its double-digit lead. Finally, SVC notched four straight to make it a 26-19 Blazer edge at the 2:09 mark. Pickett scored the next basket, but a Barnes jumper and a 1-for-2 trip to the line by Johnson cut it to a 28-22 deficit at the end of the half.
Traded scoring continued after the break, a Longe triple making it a three-point game at 30-27. MacKenzie then got a jumper to go, starting a 10-0 Mountaineer run that included a pair of Barnes free throws and a three by junior captain Amber Dow (Vergennes, Vt.) for SVC to grab a 36-31 upper hand. The hosts' lead would not last for long, however, as Elms closed out the final four minutes of the frame with six unanswered points; Burr drilled a trey with 2:24 left on the clock, and neither team could get one in the hoop through the rest of the quarter for EC to go into the fourth up 37-36.
Southern Vermont quickly took the momentum to start the final stanza, a Flagg jumper putting the Mountaineers ahead by one before she and Barnes notched another six straight points for a 44-37 SVC lead. Elms hit its first basket of the fourth at the 5:03 mark when Pickett laid one in, and free throws were then exchanged going into the closing minutes. Flagg and Barnes each put home a layup for SVC's lead to go into double digits, but EC cut it back to six with a pair of Marques baskets at the charity stripe with 1:35 left to go.
The Blazers tried to play the foul game in the hopes that missed Southern Vermont free throws would give them a chance, but SVC was a perfect 8-for-8 at the line in the final 1:21 of action to close out the win. Dow, Flagg and Barnes each hit both ends of their bonus opportunities, and a Burr three-pointer would then be too-little, too-late as Flagg iced the game with another pair of freebies for the big league victory.