In the teams' only matchup between each other during the regular season, the end result was a close game that was decided by two points in WNEC's favor.,Tuesday night's game against Western New England College was supposed to be within reach for the women's basketball team. As the number-five seed, the Lions found themselves playing in Springfield, Mass., against the number-four ranked team.
In the teams' only matchup between each other during the regular season, the end result was a close game that was decided by two points in WNEC's favor.
Head Coach Melissa Hart felt the Lions playoff opponent was beatable.
"Out of two times playing [WNEC], we should beat them once," Hart said.
The Lions played a solid first half on the road and garnered a six-point lead against the Golden Bears as the teams headed to the locker rooms.
"We had the momentum in the first half," Coach Hart said. "They had it in the second half."
As it turned out, late defensive breakdowns, free-throw shooting woes, and turnovers ended up haunting the Lions as they lost 57-49, making it two years in a row that the Lions were knocked out of the playoffs in the first round.
On the defensive side of the ball, the women's squad held the Golden Bears to 18 points in the first half and then gave up 39 points to them in the second half.
"We were ready in the first half," sophomore guard Maude Okrah said. "Our defense was the best it had ever been. We were switching on screens, calling out picks, we held [Jen Dabrowski] who scored 32 points on us [in the Feb. 10 game] to six in the first half. And in the second it was like we saw a ghost. We weren't talking; we didn't have the same fire. It was like as if our fire just went out."
As much as the Lions defense struggled, the Golden Bears relatively quiet offense in the first half came alive in the second. Dabrowski, who had a game-high 18 points on the evening, scored 12 of them in the second half. Dabrowski also set a personal milestone in the game by reaching the 1,000 career points scored plateau.
"[She's the] best shooter I've ever seen in Division III," Hart said about Dabrowski's abilities.Dabrowski's skill actually led Hart to second guess the team's defensive strategy.
"I've had thought all week of playing two-three," Hart said about the defensive setup which has two players at the top and three at the back. "Now that we lost, I thought that I should have done it, give [Dabrowski] different shots." Then Hart realized that her gut reaction was the correct one. "It could have looked like the dumbest thing too. They only scored 18 points in the first half."
Then there was the game that was played at the free throw line. WNEC went to the line 31 times, while the Lions only took 16 foul shots in the game.
"That definitely helped give them an edge," Hart said regarding the foul-shot differential. "More than one-third of their points came from the free throw line." The Golden Bears scored 15 more points than the Lions from the line.
Okrah felt the Lions going 50 percent at the free-throw line didn't play a major factor in the game since the Lions have shot around that percentage all season long at the line.
"We missed eight and we lost by eight," Okrah said. "Sure, it's safe to say that if we shot 100 percent from the line it would be a different game, but we never do, so who knows? I'm not one to blame the referees for a loss, but it was very inconsistent and I guess it is something that we should have gotten use to. One referee was calling everything on us and the other two weren't calling anything."
The Lions also committed more than twice as many turnovers than the Golden Bears on the night, as they gave away the ball 17 times.
"Something that hurt us all season," Hart said about the team's Achilles heal. "Free throws and turnovers."
However, the Lions' season may not be completely over.
"We still have an outside shot at ECAC's so we're practicing on Friday," Hart said. "But somethings that have to happen are out of our control. I guess we're not looking back on the season ... yet."