WALTHAM, Mass.- The Brandeis University women's basketball team could not complete a late rally in a close Brandeis Invitational championship game against the Colby College Mules (2-0) at Red Auerbach Arena. A last gasp 3-pointer from senior guard Kasey Dean (Southbury, Conn./Pomperaug) clanged off the rim as time expired and the Judges (1-1) fell 70-67.
The tightly contested game was decided by numerous scoring tears from both sides. In the first half, after the Mules' sophomore guard Carylanne Wolfington (Hallowell, Maine/Hall-Dale) cut the Judges' lead to 8-7 with a layup, Brandeis embarked on a 13-6 run over the next six minutes to take a commanding 21-13 advantage. Brandeis' sophomore guard Niki Laskaris (Swampscott, Mass./Swampscott) was a big part of that scoring spurt netting nine points during the run and 14 for the half. Still, Colby did not back down easily and closed the period on an impressive 20-4 streak that featured four trifectas including two from rookie guard Caitlyn Nolan (Barrington, R.I./Barrington) as they entered the break leading 33-25.
In the second half, trailing 40-31 with 17:29 to play, the Judges mounted their comeback. Behind a stifling full court press Brandeis forced four turnovers in just over three minutes and found itself ahead 41-40 after a layup by sophomore forward Tori Dobson (Greenwich, Conn./Greenwich) at the 14:22 mark. From that point on, the largest lead either team would hold was four points, setting the stage for a thrilling conclusion.
With 6:14 remaining in the game, rookie guard Paris Hodges (Southampton, N.Y./Southampton) sunk a midrange jumper to give the Judges their biggest lead of the half at 55-51. A back-and-forth battle would ensue as the Mules flipped the script, rattling off eight straight points to take a 59-55 lead on a pair of free throws from sophomore guard Desi Smith (Watertown, Wis./Watertown) with 4:28 to go. Dean staged her own mini-comeback converting consecutive lay ups to knot it up at 59-59. After Colby's sophomore guard Mia Diplock (Vienna, Maine/Cony) converted one of two from the charity stripe, Dobson came right back with a layup that would give Brandeis their final lead of the game, 61-60.
The next two offensive possessions for the Mules were back breakers as Nolan and then senior guard Jen Nale (Waterville, Maine/Waterville) drained back-to-back triples to give them a 66-63 lead. The last two minutes of the game saw a quick foul and attack the rim strategy from the Judges keep it close but it would be Nale sinking two more from the charity strip with three seconds left that clinched the 70-67 victory for Colby.
Brandeis was led by Laskaris who came off the bench to score a game-high and career-high 21 points after not playing in the opener. Senior forward Nicolina Vitale (Clinton Township, Mich./Chippewa Valley) had another big game, notching a double-double with 15 points and 10 rebounds including eight on the offensive class. Hodges barely missed a double-double with nine points and 11 caroms. Sophomore Heather Cain (Gloucester, Mass./Gloucester) led all players with three steals.
The Mules were paced by Nale who finished with 16 points including a game-high three 3-pointers. Three more Colby players joined Nale in double-digits as Smith had 15, Nolan had 12, and Diplock had 11. Senior guard Gabe Donahue (Cape Elizabeth, Maine/Cape Elizabeth) led the squad with 10 rebounds while Diplock had a game-high four assists.
In the consolation game earlier in the afternoon, the Eastern Nazarene Lions and Mount Ida Mustangs played in a low-scoring defensive battle. The Lions were held to 30.6% shooting from the field while the Mustangs were not much better at 32.8%. Both squads especially struggled from beyond the arc where they went a combined 2-for-21. In the end it was Eastern Nazarene's smothering defense that forced 35 turnovers and secured a 52-46 victory.
Rookie guard Nicole Greer (Odenton, Md./Arundel) came off the bench to lead a trio of Lions in double-figures with 13 points. Junior forward Michelle Herrera (Santa Barbara, Calif./Santa Ynez) had 11 points while classmate forward Lucy Santos (Vallejo, Calif./Hogan) scored 10 points to go with six rebounds. Sophomore guard Tyshay Montgomery (Woodlawn, Md./Western Tech) led the squad with eight rebounds and swiped a game-high six steals.
For the Mustangs, rookie center Angelique Martinez (Taunton, Mass./Taunton) dominated in the paint with game-highs of 16 points and 11 rebounds for a double-double. Martinez also had five steals and four blocks for the game. Junior forward Jenn Rafuse (Brockton, Mass./Brockton) finished tied for the team lead after pulling down 11 boards.
At the conclusion of the championship game, the All-Tournament team was named including senior guard Abbey Fedigan (New Fairfield, Conn./New Fairfield) from Mount Ida, Herrera from Eastern Nazarene, Diplock from Colby, and Hodges and Vitale from Brandeis. The tournament's Most Valuable Player award was given to Nale from Colby who averaged 18.5 points over her team's two victories.
The Judges continue their season at home against Roger Williams with a 7:00 p.m. tip-off on Tuesday November 19th.