Springfield, Mass. -- January 31, 2009 -- Corey Finch (see photo) scored a game-high 25 points and pulled down 11 rebounds to lead her Springfield College women's basketball team to a 61-53 victory over Wheaton College in an important New England Women's and Men's Athletic Conference game this afternoon at James Naismith Court in Blake Arena. With the win, Springfield raises its record to 11-8 overall, 6-1 in NEWMAC play.
With the loss, Wheaton falls to 11-8 overall, 5-2 in league play. This was the first meeting between these two teams since last season's NEWMAC Tournament championship game, won by Wheaton, 74-69. Today's game will be the only regular season contest between these two clubs this season.
WPI, the NEWMAC leader with a 7-1 league record, defeated fellow conference-foe Mount Holyoke this afternoon in Worcester, 44-33. WPI thus remains in first place in the NEWMAC standings by a half-game over Springfield.
It was a game where Springfield led more often than not, but it was really not decided until the final four minutes.
Finch was immense in the second half when she scored 17 of her 25 points. The senior forward from Hanover, Pa. was 8-of-16 from the floor and 9-of-9 from the free throw line. She also had 2 steals, 1 block, and 1 assist. The only other double-figure scorer for Springfield was freshman guard Kelly Murphy (Mechanicville, N.Y.), who led the league in assist-to-turnover ratio entering today's game, with 14 points. She also had 2 assists and 2 steals. The next leading scorer for the Pride was sophomore guard Rachelle Walker (Lee, Mass.) with 7 points. Senior center Lauren O'Connor (Valhalla, N.Y.) finished with 5 points and 8 rebounds.
Wheaton was led by senior guard Bri Smith (Westford, Mass.) with 14 points (3-of-6 from 3-point range). The only other double-figure scorer was junior forward Jenny Champney (Bedford, Mass.) with 12 points and 5 rebounds. Scoring 9 points apiece were junior guard Andrea Bailey (Needham, Mass.) and senior forward Krystin Hickey (Manchester, N.H.). Hickey now needs 8 points to become Wheaton's all-time leading scorer.
At the game's beginning, the teams swapped leads. The Pride did lead by as many as seven on two occasions, the second with 11:11 remaining (15-8) when freshman forward Cherelle Allen (New Britain, Conn.) made two free throws. But Wheaton came back to take a three-point lead (22-19) with 2:46 left on a jumper by junior forward Ida Kruse (Vershire, Vt.). Then Finch erased that lead by hitting a jumper with 1:14 left, then two free throws with 1:03 remaining, to give SC a 23-22 edge at the intermission.
In the second half, the hosts managed to maintain smallish leads (1-5 points) until Hickey made a lay-up with 11:24 left, giving the Lyons a 37-35 edge. It wasn't until the 6:47 mark that Springfield was able to regain the lead on a Finch lay-up, 41-40. With 5:34 remaining, Kruse made a lay-up, allowing Wheaton to regain the advantage, 42-41. And when Bailey made two free throws with 4:51 left, Wheaton had tied its largest lead in the second half. That was followed, however, by a 3-pointer by Murphy, tying matters at 44-all. A lay-up by Champney gave Wheaton its last lead at 46-44 with 4:10 remaining.
This is where Springfield played its best ball of the day, outscoring Wheaton 11-0 over the next 2:59. It began with a 3-pointer by Walker, the basket that gave SC the lead for good at 47-46 with 3:49 remaining. That was followed by two buckets by Finch, the latter with 1:51 left. Then came a big play when Murphy stole the ball at mid-court, finishing a solo lay-up with 1:37 left. Finch followed with two free throws with 1:11 to go, and SC had its largest lead of the game at nine points, 55-46.
Bailey gave Wheaton some hope with a 3-pointer with 59 seconds remaining. But the Lyons were forced to commit fouls in an effort to catch up. A lay-up by Hickey with 13 seconds left cut the lead to five, 58-53. But a free throw by Walker with 11 seconds, and two more by Finch with four seconds finished up the scoring.
Springfield outrebounded Wheaton, 41-30. SC shot .389 from the floor (21-of-54), and .750 from the free throw line (15-of-20). Wheaton shot .352 from the floor (19-of-54), and .786 from the charity stripe (11-of-14). Each team turned it over just 13 times. Bailey had a game-high 7 assists, and Hickey had a game-high 4 steals for Wheaton.
Up next, each team plays NEWMAC contests on Wed., Feb. 4. Springfield is at MIT at 6 pm. Wheaton hosts Babson at 7:30 pm.