Wesleyan led by as many as 11 (23-12) in the first half and by a 23-14 margin at halftime as the Cardinals never trailed in the opening 20 minutes. The Camels took their first lead, 34-33, with 11:24 remaining on a traditional three-point play. Conn had been behind 31-23 but used a 21-6 run to go up 44-37, its largest lead in the game. Wesleyan rattled off 10 straight points to retake the lead, 47-44, with Sam LaCroce '12 (#20, main photo) getting half the points. She finished with a team and career-high 23 points. The lead changed hands six times over the final five minutes with the Camels tying the game at 55-55 with :26.4 left. Wesleyan went for a final shot and LaCroce drove the baseline and was fouled trying for a reverse layup. She missed both attempts at the line with :04.1 left and the teams entered overtime.
Wesleyan never trailed in the first OT, going up 60-55 on a basket by LaCroce and a three-pointer by Gold (19 points). The Camels got five in a row to tie it at 60-60. LaCroce and Gold again scored but Conn answered each time to make it 64-64 with 1:26 left. Each team missed twice and Wesleyan had a final possession but could not get off a decent shot starting in its backcourt with :08.5 to go.
In the second extra period, Conn got a three-pointer and a pair of free throws to hold a 69-68 lead. Then Gold began the decisive Wesleyan run as Wesleyan scored eight consecutive points for a 76-69 advantage with :26.7 showing on the clock. Wesleyan got three more at the line, all by Gold, while Conn got a pair for the final score.
Eileen Gaffney '12 (#30, photo insert lower right) picked up her ninth double-double of the year for Wesleyan with 20 points while shooting 12-for-13 at the line, to go with 11 rebounds. LaCroce also had a double-double with 10 rebounds. Melanie Ferdinand '12 led all rebounders in the contest with 12 for Wesleyan.
Wesleyan finished the regular season with a road trip to Maine, taking on Bowdoin Fri., Feb. 12 and Colby Sat., Feb. 13. Neither game came out favorably for the Cardinals. At Bowdoin, Wesleyan recovered from an early 14-2 deficit to climb within four at 30-26. The Polar Bears stretched the lead to 38-30 at the break, moved ahead by double-digits early in the second period and methodically extended the lead to the high teens by the midway point of the second half, then poured it on over the last six minutes to win going away. Bowdoin shot a brisk 59 percent from the field and hit six of 10 three-pointers while Wesleyan made 40 percent of its field goals and only two treys in 15 tries. The only Cardinal to reach double-digits was LaCroce with 10 points. Ferdinand was next with nine and a team-best seven rebounds.
At Colby, Wesleyan fell behind from the start again, down 13-4, and trailed by as many as 17 in the first half. With the score 34-24, Colby netted the final nine points of the period for a 43-24 margin at halftime, and opened the second half with a 15-2 burst for a titanic 58-26 bulge. The lead stayed in the 30s and kept climbing in the latter stages of the second half, peaking at 50 before settling on the final score of 94-49.
Finishing in a tie with Middlebury for eighth in the final NESCAC standings, Wesleyan owned the tie-breaker with its head-to-head victory over the Panthers this season. As such, the Cardinals earned a third shot at top-seeded and nationally ranked #1 Amherst in a first-round NESCAC playoff game Sat., Feb. 20.
Amherst used a 17-2 run over an eight-minute span of the first half to erase a brief 7-6 deficit and pull out to a 23-9 edge. The lead was 30-21 at halftime. The Lord Jeffs moved ahead 44-27 after 7:45 of the second half and let Wesleyan get no closer than 13 on their way to a 57-36 win. Wesleyan got a team-high 12 points from LaCroce, the only Cardinal in double-digits.
As a result, Wesleyan ended the year with an 8-15 mark and was led in scoring and rebounding by Gaffney, who averaged 12.5 points and 7.7 rebounds this season.
(all photos courtesy of SteveMcLaughlinPhotography.com)