Women's basketball falls to Norwich in season opener

Emily Freedland scored a career-high 10 points in Bates' season-opening loss to Norwich University in the first game of the Marsha Graef Memorial Classic on Nov. 18, 2016 at Bowdoin. (File photo by Phyllis Graber Jensen/Bates College)

BRUNSWICK, Maine -- The Bates women's basketball team opened the 2016-17 season Friday night with the first game of the inaugural Marsha Graef Memorial Classic, falling 55-39 to Norwich University on the neutral court of Morrell Gymnasium at Bowdoin.

Heather LeBlanc led the Cadets (1-1) with 23 points, including the 1,000th of her career, and 12 rebounds. Senior captain Allie Coppola (Tarrytown, N.Y.) paced the Bobcats (0-1) with 12 points and 10 rebounds.

Bates will host the second day of the tournament Saturday. Bowdoin (0-0) and Norwich face off at Alumni Gymnasium at 2pm, followed by Bates taking on Central Maine Community College (8-0) in an exhibition game at 4pm.

Bates, which began practicing on Nov. 1, showed rust in comparison to Norwich, which had significantly more preseason practice time as well as one official game already played. Against a fierce Norwich defense, the Bobcats shot 15-64 from the field (.234) and made one 3-pointer on 25 attempts beyond the arc (.040).

Norwich held Bates scoreless for an eight-minute span, covering the end of the first and most of the second quarter. During that span, the Cadets used an 11-0 run to take a commanding 22-8 advantage. Norwich led 26-11 at the break before the Bates offense came alive in the third quarter, closing the gap to 12 points, 38-26, heading into the final period. Bates couldn't cut the deficit into single digits during the final period.

Bates junior Emily Freedland (Marblehead, Mass.) scored a career-high 10 points, while junior forward Nina Davenport (Freeport, Maine) added nine points and six rebounds. Senior Bernadette Connors (Windham, N.H.) passed out four of Bates' seven assists. 

The tournament, jointly hosted by Bates and Bowdoin, is named for Marsha Graef, a Professor Emerita of Physical Education, coach and administrator in the Bates College Department of Athletics for nearly 30 years, who died on Nov. 16, 2015, at age 61, after a nearly three-year battle with pancreatic cancer.  The name is a tribute to her coaching tree. As the head women's basketball coach at Bates from 1985-92, Graef tutored current Bowdoin coach Adrienne Shibles (Bates '91) in her collegiate career. Shibles, in turn, hired current Bates head coach Alison Montgomery (Bowdoin '05) as an assistant coach at Bowdoin in 2008.