Bobcats pounce on Nighthawks for New Year's Day victory

Melanie Binkhorst netted a career-high 20 points in Bates' 80-60 victory over Newbury College on Jan. 1, 2019 in Springfield, Mass. (File photo by Phyllis Graber Jensen/Bates College)

SPRINGFIELD, Mass. -- The Bates women's basketball team scored the first 17 points of the game and never looked back as the Bobcats cruised past Newbury College, 80-60, in the consolation game of the Hampton Inn West Springfield/Naismith Classic on Tuesday afternoon in Blake Arena on the campus of Springfield College.

The loss dropped Newbury to 5-6 on the year, while Bates improved to 4-4. The Bobcats shot 31-for-67 (46.3%) in the victory, while the Nighthawks were just 22-of-53 (41.5%) in the setback.

For Bates, three players scored at least 11 points, led by junior Melanie Binkhorst (West Hartford, Conn.), who notched a career-high 20 points and was named to the All-Tournament Team, while first-year Meghan Graff (South Portland, Maine) poured in 17. The Bobcats dominated the glass with a 44-25 advtange, including 20 offensive boards that resulted in 24 second-chance points.

Savannah Olsen and Taylor Kelley led the way with 12 points apiece for Newbury, while Jaymesha Sanders turned in 10.

Bates seized control from the opening whistle, storming out to a 17-0 lead just over three minutes into the opening quarter, including seven points from first-year Ariana Dalia (Brick, N.J.). At 4:12, Newbury broke into the scoring column with a pair of free throws by Tatianna Occena, which kickstarted a 9-2 surge to pull the Nighthawks within 19-9 following a jumper by Sanders with 1:44 to play. Bates answered back with their fourth three-pointer of the stanza, this time by sophomore Julia Middlebrook (Ridgefield, Conn.), and eventually owned a 24-11 cushion after 10 minutes of play.

After Binkhorst converted inside at 6:31 of the second quarter, the Bobcats lead grew to 34-15, but Newbury was able to close within 17 points on an Olsen putback at the 4:45 mark. However, Bates answered right back with a 7-2 burst, getting a triple from Binkhorst to gain a 22-point advantage with 3:31 remaining in the half. The Bobcats owned a 50-28 lead at halftime as they shot 53% from the field, including 7-of-12 from beyond the arc.

Newbury could get no closer than within 20 points in the third quarter, and Bates earned its largest cushion through three quarters when sophomore Skye Conley (New Gloucester, Maine) finished inside with under a minute to play to make it a 67-39 contest. Occena hit a three to end the stanza, making it 67-42, Bates, heading to the fourth.

With 7:23 to play, Graff's layup gave Bates a 24-point lead, but Occena connected from deep again to pull the Nighthawks back to within 21. With 48 seconds to play, Graff dished a pass out to sophomore Meredith Melendy (Grantham, N.H.), who knocked it down to make it 80-58, Bobcats. Jada Gee scored the game's final basket, finishing the game at 80-60.

Binkhorst, whose previous career high was 19 points, shot 7-13 from the field, including 2-5 from three, and 4-4 from the free-throw line. She added six rebounds and two steals. Middlebrook posted 11 points, five rebounds and three steals from off the bench.

Bates will host No. 1 nationally ranked Bowdoin in the rivals' first New England Small College Athletic Conference game of the season, this Friday at 7pm. It will be the Bobcats' second home game of the season.