Bobcats set to host NESCAC’s final four women’s basketball teams
Head coach Jim Murphy ’69 has the Bates women’s basketball team in the NESCAC semifinals for the sixth time in as many years — this time, as the host team.
The final four women’s basketball teams left in the NESCAC are Bates, Bowdoin, Wesleyan and Williams. This is nothing new for any of these programs: neither Bates nor Bowdoin has ever missed out on the semifinal round of the NESCAC Championship, now in its sixth year, while Williams makes its fifth appearance and Wesleyan its third.
But for the first time, the semifinals will take place at Bates, inside warm and cozy Alumni Gymnasium, and that’s good news for no one but the host and top-seeded Bobcats (18-7), who enter Saturday’s matchup against fourth-seeded Williams (21-4) with a 22-game winning streak in Lewiston. The 2 p.m. game will be followed at 4 p.m. by No. 2 Bowdoin (22-2) playing No. 3 Wesleyan (18-6). The winners will play in the NESCAC Finals Sunday at 1 p.m. at Alumni.
Tickets for the 2006 NESCAC Women’s Basketball Semifinals at Bates College will go on sale Friday at Alumni Gymnasium from 9 a.m. to 12 p.m. Tickets for Sunday’s NESCAC Finals will be on sale at Alumni Gym when doors open at 11 a.m. Sunday.
Tickets for Saturday’s semifinal games will be sold as a two-game package, at $5 for adults and $2 for students. Tickets for Sunday’s championship game will be sold separately at the same rates.
The opening game pits the host Bobcats against the team that dealt them their lone league loss this season, a 69-48 decision on Jan. 21 in Williamstown, Mass. That was the first time Williams had beaten Bates in 12 games, a run that stretched back to 1999 and included a 78-64 non-league loss this season, in the championship game of Williams’ December tournament.
The veteran Ephs start four juniors and one senior, Colleen Hession, a first-team All-NESCAC guard last season who averages 12.8 points per game but was 1-for-10 from the floor in the win over Bates. That was fine, though, because junior forwards Maggie Miller and Meghan O’Malley had monster games that day, combining for 50 points and 19 rebounds and earning Co-Player of the Week honors from the conference. Miller, a second-team All-NESCAC player last year, averages 13.6 points and 8.3 rebounds, while O’Malley, the current NESCAC Player of the Week, posts similar numbers (12.5 points, 7.7 rebounds).
Gone from last year’s Bates squad is reigning NESCAC Player of the Year Olivia Zurek, but there’s still plenty of talent here. Junior center Meg Coffin, a second-team All-NESCAC performer last season, is a leading candidate for Player of the Year this season, ranking in the top four in five major statistical categories, including first in rebounding (10.5) and second in scoring (17.2). Both of last season’s Co-Rookies of the Year in the NESCAC are on the roster and playing solid sophomore seasons — point guard Sarah Barton, the leading assist-maker and three-point shooter in the conference, and forward Matia Kostakis, who played at Amherst College last season. Senior forward Annie Whiting won MVP honors of the Williams College Tournament in December, and first-years Val Beckwith and Jackie Powers are both reliable scoring threats.
Bates cracked D3Hoops.com’s Top 25 rankings this week for the first time since the beginning of the season, at No. 25, while Williams is rated No. 20.
Ranked No. 6 in that poll is Bowdoin, which has won all five NESCAC Championships thus far with a 15-0 tournament record. The only teams to top the Polar Bears this season are No. 1 Southern Maine and Bates, which wiped out Bowdoin’s 31-game conference winning streak with a 56-51 victory at Alumni on Jan. 13. The Polar Bears exacted revenge with a convincing 76-59 victory in Brunswick 18 days later, but the loss to Bates cost them their home court advantage for the first time since 2001.
Senior Justine Pouravelis and junior Eileen Flaherty, both of whom were first-team All-NESCAC players last season, head Bowdoin’s roster. Pouravelis is Bowdoin’s top rebounder and ranks among the league leaders in steals and blocked shots, while Flaherty scores a team-high 15.8 points per game. First-year Jill Aneslauskas, a NESCAC Player of the Week who squeezes 12 points per game into her 18 minutes per game, appears to be Bowdoin’s newest rising star.
Wesleyan gets the first crack at dethroning the defending champions, and the Cardinals will certainly have revenge on their minds: they came within minutes of ending the nation’s longest current home winning streak at Bowdoin on Feb. 3, holding an 18-point lead with nine minutes left in the game before the Polar Bears stormed back to win in overtime. Senior Hannah Stubbs, another first team All-NESCAC player in 2004-05, is fourth in the NESCAC in both scoring (15.2) and rebounding (8.2) this season.