On Feb. 4, the Emerson women's basketball team defeated the Suffolk Rams by a single-point in overtime at Suffolk's home court, kicking off a string of five wins to end their regular season. Twenty days later, on Tuesday, Feb. 24, the Lions hosted the Rams in the quarter-final round of the GNAC playoff tournament-and won the game 74-45.
They advance to the semifinal round of the playoffs at host Emmanuel College, where they will play the second-seeded Norwich Cadets at 7:30 p.m. Should the Lions win on Friday, they will play the other winner of the other semifinal game, between Emmanuel and Johnson Wales University, on Saturday at 3 p.m.
This win gave the Lions their largest in-conference margin of victory this season. Head Coach Bill Gould said he believes his players' memory of the first game was a strong motivating factor for their performance in the rematch.
"I think our team knows and has a lot of respect for Suffolk, they've always been a very good team. They've always, from what I understand, had their number," he said. "The fact that it was as close as it was, it kind of gave them a little bit of a memory to say, 'Hey we've got to step up and play well.' And I think they did that."
The Lions have been blowing opponents away, outscoring them by a total of 90 points in their last six games. Senior guard Bri Papa said the streak has made the team realize what they are capable of, and made them determined to post as many points as they can.
"Norwich and Emmanuel were huge wins for us, and it made us realize what we could do," the broadcast journalism major said. "We're not taking any games lightly from here on out, we're just going in guns blazing, trying to win by as many points as we can, not giving up."
Papa led the team with 17 points, nine of which were from three-pointers.
This season is the last for Papa and teammates Lauren Vassallo and Maude Okrah and it has also been the team's most successful ever. Gould said he believes it is fortunate their last season is their best because it will be the barometer by which they ultimately measure the success of their careers.
"A lot of times your last year, 20 years from now, is what you remember your career being," he said. "All of a sudden they have a great run, they make it to the post-season tournament and play well, they're going to say, 'Oh, I loved my college basketball career.' I think the fact that they are getting to have a good senior year is great."
The Lions roared off the bench at the start of the game Tuesday dropping in a trio of three pointers in the first seven minutes to bring the score up to 19-8, in their favor. Two more three-pointers and a bevy of buckets and free throws gave the girls a 20-point cushion going into the second half, a lead they never came close to relinquishing.
Over the course of the game, the Lions managed an impressive 46.2 percent of their three-pointers, and an even more impressive 84.6 percent of their free throws. These sums combined for 40 points on the night. Gould said seeing these numbers will likely scare the Lions' opponent in the next round of the playoffs.
"It makes whoever we play on Friday say, 'Damn, we might have to guard everybody now,' he said. "And they can't sag in, just guard our posts or whatever, and that'll help us out. I've been trying to stress balance all year. Balance, balance, balance. We got points from all over so that was good."
Lions' center Lauren Zaniboni, who scored 10 points on Tuesday, was unable to play in the team's last match against Suffolk due to a concussion. She said her previous benching only made her all the more excited to play against the Rams.
"I was excited to play Suffolk because they're a big rival of ours, and I didn't get to play last time so I was really bummed out," the sophomore marketing communication major said.
The team's shallow 10-woman roster seems like it would be a glaring weakness with playoff games in such close proximity, but Gould disagrees. He said if they've made it this far without many players, there's no reason to expect it will become an issue now.
"They're in shape because they play, they don't need extra running in practice because they're getting it in games," he said. Tomorrow, we're just going to practice an hour, walk through some stuff and go home. We're going to be fine."