SPRINGFIELD – Despite getting outscored by double digits in the second half, the Springfield College women’s basketball team hung on to beat Endicott 61-56 in its home opener Tuesday night in front of a packed Blake Arena.
“I’m excited,” head coach Naomi Graves said. “It was closer than we wanted, and I don’t think we played the way we wanted to, but we won. And that’s all that matters.”
Center Lindsey Laughlan set the tone early for the Pride, posting a near double-double in the first quarter. Her eight-point, nine-rebound showing in the opening quarter helped the Pride jump out to a 17-6 lead.
“We had a film session today and gave her some ideas,” Graves said. “And in the first quarter, she took about all of them. I’m thrilled [with her performance].”
Springfield’s dominance on the boards poured into the second quarter, and so did Amanda Leary’s offensive explosion. After scoring seven points in the first, she followed it up with another seven point quarter, directing the Pride offense and sending her team into halftime with a 15 point lead.
The sophomore guard, who led the Pride with a career-high 19 points on 6-11 shooting, sensed that she had the hot hand early and took advantage of it.
“The first few plays I kind of felt it,” Leary said. “So I kept driving [to the basket], and kicking out when I needed to to open the lane.”
Leary also impressed her coach with her early-game willingness to get to the basket.
“She ended the season last year playing amazing,” Graves said. “She was challenged to come back and compete for that starting position, and she did.”
The third quarter is when things started to go wrong for the Pride.
Endicott guard Katelyn Konareski caught fire – scoring eight points in the third, while not missing a shot.
Consequently, the Springfield offense began to crumble, totalling nine turnovers in the quarter – the same amount of points the team totaled in the frame.
Things did not get any better entering the fourth.
With the offense struggling, and Endicott making a run, Graves was forced to use a timeout just a minute and half into the quarter.
“We need to get more offenses in it, we’re too stagnant,” Graves said. “We need to create some movement, we need to get something in.”
The Gulls continued their run late into the game, cutting the Pride’s lead to just three with under five minutes to go.
With her team in need of a spark, Graves leaned on experience.
Veteran guard Rachel Vinton led Springfield with six points and five rebounds in the final quarter to fend off the Gulls comeback.
“I’m excited to get the win tonight,” Leary said. “We can learn from this and work on the stuff we have to improve on.”
The Pride (2-1) now shift their focus to Friday and Saturday where they’ll compete in the Middlebury Classic against St. Lawrence and the hosts Middlebury College.
Photo courtesy of Springfield College Athletics