Trinity, which is currently ranked ninth in the NESCAC, grabbed an early lead in the game, but the Jeffs fought back and clinched a 27-25 lead at halftime. The lead see-sawed between the Jeffs and the Bantams throughout the second half.
In the last minute of the game, Trinity seemed to have the win locked up. With 15 seconds remaining, the Bantams had a four-point lead and possession of the ball. As Trinity missed a free throw, senior quad-captain Shannon Russell took the ball downcourt and tightened the gap to two points.
Amherst fouled immediately and sent Bantam Tracy Nesbit to the foul line. She missed both free throws and sophomore forward Julie Smith snatched the rebound and dished the ball to Russell, who found junior Kate Herlihy behind the arc. Despite tight coverage, Herlihy rose above her defender in time to shoot the game-winning three-pointer at the buzzer.
The win brought players and coaches alike off the bench, jumping and screaming in a fit of excitement. This win brings the Jeffs to 10-12 overall and 2-5 in the NESCAC.
Pacing Amherst was forward Katie Latham ’06 who scored 14 points and eight rebounds. Classmate guard Kristine Morin pitched in with 10 points, six rebounds and five assists. Bouncing back from an injury, senior quad-captain Marissa McGuire led the team with nine rebounds, a “key part of the game,” according to Head Coach Billy McBride. Also back was first-year standout Caroline Polales, who made an impressive showing despite her injury.
The previous game against Clark was less satisfying. Although Amherst mounted a seven-point lead at the beginning of the game, the Cougars fought for an 18-17 lead with 7:29 left in the first half and didn’t look back.
At one point, they had amassed a 33-point lead, but the Jeffs fought back to decrease the deficit. Four of Clark’s players scored in double figures, while Amherst’s Morin led the Jeffs with nine points and Smith followed with seven, as well as a game-high 12 rebounds. Also contributing to the effort was senior quad-captain Caitlin Farrell, with eight rebounds and three blocks, and Latham, with eight rebounds.
Although the five consecutive losses were disappointing, Coach McBride feels that “adversity introduces teams to what [the game] is all about.”
“To have a team that sticks together when things get tough is truly amazing,” said McBride. This week Amherst plans to concentrate on free-throw shooting after going 11-for-25 in the Trinity contest. Also, the Jeffs will work on improving their defense.
Coming off the intensity of the huge win on Saturday, Amherst faces Connecticut College this Friday at 7 p.m. in LeFrak Gymnasium. A win in this game could catapult the Jeffs into the playoffs. Conn is led by Casey Thran, who is averaging 12.6 points and 9.5 rebounds per game. The Camels have yet to win a game in the conference and are mired at 10th place.
“With everybody at full strength, we should be able to make a stir,” said McBride. “We had to win two out of the three next games. We already have one down. This game is big; we want it to be our second win.”
Amherst also faces NESCAC and Little Three rival Wesleyan University on Saturday, Feb. 14 at 3 p.m.
Hopefully Amherst will use the momentum of the Trinity win to its advantage and come away with one or even two more wins this weekend.