Shorthanded Bates can't complete comeback vs. RPI

WILLIAMSTOWN, Mass. -- A strong ensemble performance gave Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute a 66-53 win over the Bates women's basketball team on Saturday afternoon on the second day of the Williams Holiday Classic. The Engineers improved to 5-2 with the win, while the Bobcats, playing their fourth game in five days, all with an injury-shortened rotation, dropped their second straight to fall to 2-5.

Both teams came out aggressively to start the game. First-year Chelsea Nason (Boxford, Mass.) got things rolling for Bates just three seconds into the contest with a running layup, the start of a brief spurt that saw her score seven of the Bobcats’ first nine points while draining her first three shots from the field.

RPI countered with a pair of quick guards in Bailei Tetrault and Kelly Piotrwoski, who skillfully quarterbacked the Engineer offense and frequently teamed up on smothering double-teams in the Bates backcourt. The pressure seemed to rattle the Bobcats somewhat, as Bates committed 17 turnovers in the first half.

The Engineers took advantage of Bates' mistakes and, after junior Julia Rafferty (Reading, Mass.) assisted sophomore Allaina Murphy (Poland Spring, Maine) for a layup that gave Bates a 15-11 lead, RPI rattled off a 16-0 run for their largest lead of the half, a run punctuated when Jen Rock dished off to a wide-open Michelle Reid for an easy three.

A Bates timeout seemed to rejuvenate the Bobcats somewhat, but they still had trouble containing the Engineers’ speedy backcourt. As soon as Bates pulled back to within single digits, RPI responded with one of its best sequences of the afternoon when Tetrault bounced a no-look pass to Piotrowski, who swung the ball around to Amanda Lynch, who led all scorers in the period with 12 points, for a mid-range jumper and a 33-22 cushion.

Just as they did on Friday evening, the Bobcats made a spirited attempt at a second-half comeback as play evened out in the second half, and Bates trimmed the deficit to five after senior Allie Beaulieu (Swampscott, Mass.) found Murphy with an over-the-top lob to Murphy, who sealed out her defender and sank the layup.

From then on, the teams traded baskets as the RPI lead wavered between five and 11 points for the next eight minutes. The elastic finally broke with seven minutes to go, however, when Zysnia Osepa stole an inbounds pass and dished to Rock for a 60-48 RPI advantage, then sealed the outcome when she laid a driving layup off the glass four minutes later to extend the Engineer lead to 16. Meanwhile Bates struggled from the floor and went nearly five crucial minutes without scoring a basket.

Rafferty played her second full 40 minutes in less than 24 hours, as Bates continued to play without the services of sophomore Molly Brown (South Dartmouth, Mass.), junior Meredith Kelly (Cohasset, Mass.) and sophomore Kristin Calvo (South Dartmouth, Mass.), all lost to injury. Beaulieu and Nason also played the full 40 minutes.

Senior Brianna Hawkins (South Portland, Maine) led four Bobcats in double figures with a season-high 11 points. Adding 10 points apiece were Nason, Murphy and O'Connell, who was named to the All-Tournament Team. The senior captain averaged 14.5 points and 6.0 boards over the two games.

Nason's 10 points and eight boards are both season highs. Beaulieu was held to a season-low four points, but still contributed a team-high five assists, four blocked shots and three steals -- a career high in blocks for the senior captain.

Bates returns home to face the University of New England on Tuesday at 5:30pm.