BABSON PARK, Mass.—Sophomore Giovanna Pickering (Hull, Mass.) finished with 12 points, five rebounds and three steals, and fourth-seeded Babson College used a stifling defensive effort to defeat fifth-seeded WPI, 50-41, in a New England Women's and Men's Athletic Conference (NEWMAC) women's basketball quarterfinal on Wednesday night at Staake Gymnasium.
With the victory, Babson moves to 18-8 and advances to the conference semifinals for the seventh consecutive season. WPI, which had won its last seven NEWMAC quarterfinal contests, drops to 16-10 on the year.
Junior Kristen Ferola (Amherst, Mass.) came off the bench to scored nine points, while seniorLindsey Roche (Arlington, Mass.) chipped in with seven points, all in the second half for the Beavers. Sophomore Jennifer Narlee (Medfield, Mass.) led all players with nine rebounds and three assists in the win.
Senior Amaia Gritsko (Milford, Conn.) had seven points and seven rebounds for the Engineers, while classmate Rachel Pineda (Shrewsbury, Mass.) finished with seven points and three boards. Fellow senior Dani Davis (East Granby, Conn.), WPI's leading scorer, contributed six points, five rebounds and three assists, but was just 3-of-15 from the floor.
After a slow start by both teams, WPI took its biggest lead of the game at 9-6 with 14:17 remaining on a layup by junior Haili Welton (Southbury, Conn.). The Green and White missed nine of its first 11 shots from the floor, but got back-to-back hoops from Pickering and a layup from Narlee to take a 12-9 lead at the 11:48 mark. The Engineers cut their deficit to 14-13 on a layup in transition by first-year Ama Biney (Worcester, Mass.), Ferola drained a pair of free throws and sophomore Ashley Snyder (Foxboro, Mass.) connected on a free-throw line jumper to give the Beavers their biggest lead of the stanza at 18-13 with 5:21 to play in the half.
WPI responded with a 9-2 spurt, including four points from Gritsko, to go back in front 22-20, but Pickering buried a pair of pull-up jump shots over the final 63 seconds to give Babson a 24-22 lead at the break. Despite shooting just 33.3 percent in the opening 20 minutes, the Green and White scored 12 points off 14 Engineers' turnovers and added 10 second-chance points.
The Beavers took control of the game by outscoring WPI 18-4 over the first 11:37 of the second half. Baskets by Snyder, Graber and Pickering made it 30-24 at the 14:49 mark, and Roche and junior Megan Otto (Scituate, Mass.) each hit a pair of free throws to stretch the lead to 34-24 with 11:54 to play. Roche buried a three-pointer from the left wing to make it 39-24, and Ferola followed a hoop by WPI junior Jessica Larsen (Poway, Calif.) with a triple to give Babson its biggest lead of the game at 42-26 with 8:23 remaining.
The Engineers wouldn't go quietly though, as junior Lisa Mendez (Yonkers, N.Y.) started a 15-4 spurt with a three-point play. Pineda got WPI back to within eight at 44-36 with a jumper at the 2:51 mark, and after the teams traded free throws Biney connected on a three-pointer to cut the Beavers' lead to just 46-41 with 1:29 left.
The Green and White turned the ball over on its next possession and missed the front end of a 1-and-1 with 55 seconds to play, but the Engineers were unable to finish a pair of shots in the lane. Roche knocked down a pair of free throws with 38 seconds to go, and junior Marissa Cicchetti (Mansfield, Mass.) went 2-of-2 at the line with 16 ticks remaining to close out the win.
The Beavers were just 31.5 percent (17-of-54) from the field, but shot a season-high 93.5 percent (14-of-15) at the charity stripe. The Green and White also held a 44-37 edge on the glass and scored 21 points off turnovers.
WPI, which went just 7-of-35 in the second half, shot 28.8 percent (17-of-59) on the night, and finished just 2-of-18 from beyond the arc.
Babson will return to action on Saturday when it travels to top-seeded Springfield for a NEWMAC Tournament semifinal at 1 p.m.
GAME NOTES: Babson is now 31-21 all-time against WPI and won two of the three meetings between the teams this season…the Beavers have also won three straight conference tournament games against the Engineers going back to 2010…Babson has won 14 of its last 15 NEWMAC Tournament games going back to 2009…the victory was the first this season for the Beavers when scoring under 60 points…the Green and White is now 4-0 on the year when holding its opponents under 50 points…Babson, which forced 21 turnovers in the win, is now 15-4 this season when turning its opponents over 18 times or more.