Defense Keys Second-Half Turnaround for WBB vs. Wheelock

Defense Keys Second-Half Turnaround for WBB vs. Wheelock

NEW LONDON, Conn. – Mitchell College erased a 12-point halftime deficit to defeat Wheelock College by a 69-64 final in New England Collegiate Conference women's basketball action on Wednesday night at the Yarnall Athletic Center.

The Mariners (9-13 overall, 9-6 NECC) trailed 37-25 at the break but rallied back to take their first lead with 8:22 left in the fourth quarter. A three-point play by Jessica Shepherd put Mitchell on top for good with 5:13 to play, and the hosts hung on through the final minutes to collect their fourth-straight win. 

Shepherd led all scorers and tied a season high with 22 points and finished with six rebounds and four assists. Alexandra Kolb also had a big night with 21 points and six boards to go with three assists and two steals. Allegra Jones and Camille Staggers each contributed seven points off the bench.

Brianna Hochwarter paced the Wildcats (10-11 overall, 8-6 NECC) with 18 points on 8-for-12 shooting and also handed out three assists. Katie Walsh added 14 points and a game-high nine rebounds while Jaime Grzych chipped in with 10 points.

Wheelock got off to a fast start and led 12-2 after the opening 5:04. Hochwarter scored eight points during the stretch—including back-to-back triples—while Walsh provided the other four. 

Mitchell endured a rough start, missing 14 of its first 15 shots, and fell behind by 11 before finally getting on track in the final 2:35 of the period. Staggers provided the spark, scoring on consecutive possessions to cut the margin to six. A jumper by Ashleigh Beauford in the final minute trimmed the deficit to 15-11 after one.

A pair of jumpers by Kolb tied the score early in the second quarter, although Wheelock responded with a three by Grzych and a layup by Woods to push back in front. The Wildcats later pumped the lead to double-digits on a basket by Hochwarter with 3:14 to go, and buckets by Gabrielle Haywood and Grzych ended the first-half scoring with Wheelock on top 37-25.

Hochwarter led all scorers with 14 points at intermission as the Wildcats shot 50 percent as a team. Kolb had 10 points to pace the Mariners, who checked in at 28 percent.

Trailing by nine with just under 3:00 to go in the third, Mitchell ended the quarter on a 7-1 run that included a three by Shepherd. A layup by Staggers made it a 48-45 game heading into the final stanza. 

The Mariners finally pulled ahead on a jumper by Kolb early in the fourth. The lead then changed hands on the next two possessions. Sarah Tobin answered for Wheelock with an offensive rebound and put-back for a one-point edge, and Mitchell went back on top 26 seconds later thanks to a three by Kolb.

A free throw by Emma Siver later tied the game at 55-55 with 5:24 to go. On the ensuing Mitchell possession, Shepherd drove to the hoop and was fouled while making the layup. She completed the three-point play, and Mitchell never trailed again. Kolb and Beauford each drained a pair of free throws in the final 16 seconds to seal the victory.  

Mitchell's second-half defense was the key. After allowing Wheelock to shoot 50 percent in the first half, the Mariners turned up their intensity and limited the Wildcats to just 27-percent shooting over the final 20 minutes.

The 12-point deficit was the largest the Mariners have overcome this season. With the win, Mitchell moved into sole possession of fourth place in the NECC standings, a half game in front of Wheelock.

Mitchell will next play at Lesley University on Sunday, February 12 at 1 p.m. Wheelock returns to action at Southern Vermont College on Saturday, February 11 at 1 p.m.