The Springfield College women’s basketball team had plenty to celebrate on Saturday afternoon. Blake Arena was decorated with balloons, streamers, and posters that honored the team’s only senior, Tamara Tribble. The game was also a featured part of National Girls and Women in Sports Day.
A conference win over the opposing team, Wellesley College, could only make the day that much more special, and it’s a win that Springfield got.
It was all business on court for the Pride, who defeated the Blue 69-45. In forty minutes of play, the lead did not change once, and the home team was in command all the way.
Springfield came out strong, pressuring Wellesley’s offense and forcing them to turn over the ball on their opening drive.
According to freshman Lexi Windwer, whose three-pointer earned her team the first points of the game, the home team knew it would be important to come out with confidence.
“Today was the most important game because [Wellesley is] a higher seed than us,” the shooting guard said. “We needed this to get back into fifth position and possibly secure a spot in the NEWMAC tournament.”
Windwer went four-for-five from beyond the arc, contributing 12 points overall. Her fellow freshman teammate Ava Adamopoulos added 11 points from the bench.
The last time the two teams played, Wellesley walked way with a 67-57 win, en route to what would become an eleven-game win steak.
“Last time we were at Wellesley and we weren’t in the position where we had built enough confidence to execute the game plan,” Graves said. “We did it last time in the first half, and then broke down at the beginning of the second half.”
Adamopoulos said that having a healthy team also made Saturday’s contest a whole different ball game.
“I think last time, we didn’t have our team at full strength,” the center said. “I know Tamara wasn’t with us last time, and I think Andi was hurt. Today our whole team just came together and put it to them.”
Adamopoulos was a strong presence beneath the net, collecting six rebounds on the day. She used her six-foot-two frame to push through and reach over Wellesley defenders, who often double-teamed her.
Wellsley started to step its game up in the latter part of the first half. As the period wound down, trailing 26-6, the Blue scored six points in a row. But their last-minute efforts weren’t enough. When Pride freshman Dina Pitsas closed the half the same way it started, with a three-pointer, Springfield was ahead 35-15.
Eager to prove themselves when play resumed, the Blue swarmed the Pride, who had set up in Wellesley’s end of the court. In a sequence of tosses between players that showed passing makes perfect, Springfield made full use of the shot clock, waiting until they had clear look at the basket.
“We made that extra pass and found some easy layups, which was good,” said Windwer.
Still down 59-34, Wellesley made another small run with four minutes left, scoring 10 unanswered points, including two threes.
But, after Graves called a time-out and slowed things down, Springfield regained possession of the ball. Soon after, junior Jaimie Bickelhaupt netted a jumper to extend the Pride’s lead. Bickelhaupt contributed a team-high 17 points to the win.
The 24-point margin against Wellesley, who is ranked fourth in the New England’s Women’s and Men’s Athletic Conference, is the second highest posted by the Pride in a win this season.
Springfield is now 9-8 in conference and 13-9 overall. In the team’s last four wins, Springfield has defeated its opponents by 15 points or more. They are currently ranked sixth in the NEWMAC.
Graves said she is proud of her team’s accomplishments as they try to hold the final playoff spot.
“The best thing about this game was that we made a statement to ourselves,” Grave said. “[Wellesley] was ranked higher than us with wins and losses, and I felt like our kids this time around had improved so much that we were able to get a solid lead.”
With just three conference games left in the season, including a match-up against Smith College on Wednesday, Adamopoulos is hoping to keep the good vibes flowing as her team looks to make a postseason push.
“We played really well the past few games,” Adamopoulos said. “We’re ready to go into NEWMACs and show people what Springfield is about.”