As the first 20 minutes of the Springfield College Pride’s women’s basketball season were in the books at Western New England on Tuesday night, it could be almost certain that a 41-25 halftime lead over the WNEU Golden Bears would be enough of a cushion.
Instead, the Springfield lead slowly transformed into a gradual surge by the Golden Bears. The second half rally gave the home team a 68-63 victory over the Pride.
Lexi Windwer and freshman Heather King each netted 14 points to lead the Pride while Sammie Battaini and Emily Anderson had a 11 apiece for the Golden Bears.
At the 15:04 mark in the second half, the Golden Bears were down 51-29 and from there went on a 39-12 run to close out the win.
“We played the last 15 minutes of the game, we just played like we were zombies, no emotion, no nothing,” said Pride Coach Naomi Graves.
In a first half where Springfield had a 57% field goal percentage and 66.7% from behind the arc, Windwer was the main culprit as she went 3 for 5 in three pointers in the opening half. Heather Lewis was in her own offensive groove going 4 for 7 from field goal range.
Then Lewis, Windwer, and company went cold in the 2nd half. The Pride had 25% field goal percentage and just an 8% success rate from three point range.
It was an adjustment by the Golden Bears to switch up to zone defense that rattled the Pride shooters and ultimately transitioned to their defense.
“We just couldn’t shoot the ball in the zone and then that determined our defensive intensity,” said Graves. “You can go without shooting; you can’t go without defensive intensity.”
In the final 3:30 of the game, the Pride found themselves clinging to a 54-52 lead. The Golden Bears earned their first lead of the game after a three point bucket from Sammie Olson. Anderson became a force in the paint when it mattered most as she grabbed a rebound on the next possession and built the Golden Bear lead to three points. All 11 points and 4 rebounds came in the 2nd half for Anderson.
It was the final minute of the game with the Pride down 62-54, where they attempted to play catch-up. Senior captain Jaimie Bickelhaupt hustled for a ball going out of bounds and flipped it to the middle of the paint where King picked it up and put in the easy two.
Graves then inserted her hectic full court pressure defense which paid off as the second senior captain, Andrea Moschetta, picked a Golden Bear’s pocket and took it for the routine lay in. After a series of fouls out of desperation, the Golden Bears made their foul shots and finished strong.
“We could feel the momentum shift, and credit to Western New England, they kept pushing hard,” said Graves.
A team that was picked to win NEWMAC’s in the preseason polls, Springfield was not expected to start the season the way it happened Tuesday night.
The good thing is that 24 more games are awaiting the Pride before the regular season comes to a close in March. The maroon and white have their home opener against New York University on Saturday and have to forget about the opening loss to get ready for the next opponent.
“We’ve got to move forward,” said Graves. “Learn from the past, move to the present.”