WATERVILLE, Maine --- Jayde Bennett (Lynn, Mass.) had the biggest game and the most important shot of her Colby College career when it counted most as the fourth-seeded Mules pulled out a wild 61-59 victory over fifth-seeded Williams College in a New England Small College Athletic Conference quarterfinal game Saturday at Wadsworth Gymnasium.
Colby (19-6 overall) heads to Amherst College for the NESCAC Final Four and will meet the top-seeded host school in a semifinal game at noon Saturday. Tufts University and Bowdoin College will meet in the other semifinal at 2 p.m. Amherst, which took a 51-50 win over the Mules in Waterville earlier this year, is the top-ranked team in the country.
Bennett came off the bench for the Mules and used her quickness to score a team-high 13 points on 5-for-9 shooting from the field and a 3-for-3 effort from the foul line. With Williams up 56-54, Bennett hit on a driving runner in the middle of the lane and was fouled on the play with 59.7 seconds to go. She calmly sank the free throw to give the Mules their first lead in more than 18 minutes.
Williams (19-6 overall) missed an inside shot with 36 seconds remaining and the Ephs put Bennett back on the foul line with 27 seconds left. Again, Bennett improved her season total to 88 percent from the foul line by making both shots for a 59-56 lead. Williams refused to quit and Jill Greenberg (Westwood, Mass.) nailed a 3-point shot from just left of the top of the key to tie the game with 18 seconds to play.
Colby head coach Julie Veilleux, who got a nice birthday gift with the victory, decided not to use a timeout as the crowd of 800 came to their feet. The Mules struggled to get an open look and senior co-captain Aarika Ritchie (Lee, Maine) was trying to drive from near the top of the key when she was bumped to the floor for a foul with 2.1 seconds left. Ritchie, who shoots 80 percent from the foul line, sank both for the final points. Williams attempted a desperation shot from past midcourt that was well short.
Ritchie finished the game at 6-for-6 from the foul line and had 12 points to go along with a team-high three steals. Rachael Mack (Augusta, Maine), who hit a big 3-point shot, added 11 points, 10 rebounds, three assists, and two steals. Jil Vaughan (Wareham, Mass.) and Jacky McLaughlin (Medfield, Mass.) each had eight points for the winners.
Danny Rainer (Marlborough, Mass.) had a terrific game for the Ephs, finishing with a game-high 19 points on 7-for-11 shooting, five rebounds, four assists, and two blocked shots. Kellie Macdonald (Danvers, Mass.) was 6-for-9 from the field for Williams for 12 points and six boards, Grace Rehnquist (Sharon, Mass.) was 3-for-3 from 3-point range for 13 points, and Greenberg added 11 points, five assists, and four steals.
Williams shot 59 percent from the field in the opening half, but the Mules still managed to take a 35-33 lead at halftime. All seven Colby players who played in the opening half had at least four points.
The Ephs took control quickly in the second half with an 8-0 scoring run to take a 41-35 margin with 17:06 to play. Williams still led by six points at 48-42 when Rehnquist hit two free throws with 10:54 to play. The Mules rallied and only trailed 52-51 when Mack scored inside with 5:44 remaining. The Ephs pulled away again when Greenberg had back-to-back baskets for a 56-51 margin with 2:25 remaining. After a Colby timeout with 2:21 to play, Mack nailed her big 3-point shot to cut the lead to 56-54 with 2:06 left. After a Williams miss with 1:42 remaining, the Mules missed the front end of a 1-and-1 with 1:19 to play. Mack, though, pulled down the offensive rebound and Bennett had her big 3-point play 20 seconds later.
Williams had slight edges in most statistical categories. The Ephs shot better from the field (49 to 44 percent), had the rebounding advantage (30-28), and finished with 18 assists (Colby had 15) on their 23 made baskets. The Mules did win the free throw battle, making 11-for-12 to the Ephs' 9-for-14.
COLBY 61, WILLIAMS COLLEGE 59
WILLIAMS COLLEGE (19-6)
Danny Rainer 7-11 5-6 19; Grace Rehnquist 4-8 2-2 13; Kellie Macdonald 6-11
0-1 12; Jill Greenberg 5-13 0-1 11; Ellen Cook 1-2 1-2 3; Jennie Harding 0-1
0-0 0; Jen Borderud 0-1 0-0 0. Totals 23-47 9-14 59.
Jayde Bennett 5-9 3-3 13; Aarika Ritchie 3-7 6-6 12; Rachael Mack 5-14 0-0
11; Jacky McLaughlin 3-5 0-1 8; Jil Vaughan 4-9 0-0 8; Diana Manduca 1-4 2-2
5; Kelly Potvin 2-5 0-0 4. Totals 23-53 11-12 61.
Williams College.............. 33 26 - 59
Colby......................... 35 26 - 61
3-point goals-Williams College 4-9 (Grace Rehnquist 3-3; Jill Greenberg 1-4;
Jennie Harding 0-1; Kellie Macdonald 0-1), Colby 4-13 (Jacky McLaughlin 2-2;
Diana Manduca 1-2; Rachael Mack 1-5; Aarika Ritchie 0-3; Jayde Bennett 0-1).
Fouled out--Williams College-Grace Rehnquist, Colby-None. Rebounds-Williams
College 30 (Lisa Jaris 7), Colby 28 (Rachael Mack 10). Assists-Williams
College 18 (Kellie Macdonald 6), Colby 15 (Rachael Mack 3; Diana Manduca 3).
Total fouls-Williams College 15, Colby 14. A-800