Women’s basketball outmatched in semifinals loss to Amherst

With three minutes left in the game, Amherst took the ball up the court with a 53-32 lead. The point guard hesitated at the top of the key before making her move toward the basket. Strong defense from Caitlyn Nolan ’17 forced the guard to stop and make a hasty pass to an incoming teammate. The pass was mishandled and sent the ball spiraling on the floor. Colby point guard MK Caverly ’17 made an immediate dive for the ball, tipping it into the hands of teammate Katie McCrum ’19. McCrum took the ball to the three-point line before passing it off to Nolan who was fouled on a reach-in call. Caverly could only look on as fellow-senior Nolan took her final two shots of her Colby career. The first one spun in and out. Nolan remained poised. She took five quick dribbles and scored her final collegiate point. One minute later, Caverly and Nolan would leave the game to cheers from the Colby bench as well as the Amherst crowd. Their final game finished in a 53-33 NESCAC semifinals loss.

“I’m not sure if I can really describe the feeling [of playing in my final game]” Caverly said. “Basketball has always been such a huge part of my life, and I don’t think I have really grasped the fact that it’s over yet.”

Following their 48-39 upset of Middlebury College, the Mules entered the game Saturday as heavy underdogs. They had the daunting task of taking on the top-ranked team in the nation. Colby and Amherst faced off one time earlier in the year, but Colby’s inability to handle the Purple and White’s athleticism and bench depth led to a 69-43 loss.

“We approached this game thinking that we had nothing to lose whereas they had everything to lose,” McCrum said. “I think that we put up a good fight and didn’t back down to them. If our shots had fell a little more I think it could’ve been an even closer game.”

McCrum’s observation is an accurate one. The Mules shot only 21.7 percent from the field. However, there were other facets of the game in which Colby was simply outmatched. After winning the tip off, the Mules worked the ball around to Caverly. She drove the lane before losing the ball to the Amherst guard on a double team. The Purple and White converted the turnover into points on a quick layup. Amherst’s opening possession was representative of the type of game they would play that day. The Purple and White dominated down low, scoring over 60 percent of their points inside the paint. They also outrebounded Colby 40-24.

Colby had its moment early. A Caverly layup with 6:25 left in the first quarter gave the Mules an 8-4 lead, but the team went cold for the next nine minutes of play, missing 11 shots. Amherst scored 14 straight points in that time and claimed a lead the Mules never took back.

Despite the final score, the   team has reason to hold their heads high. The Mules played strong defense against a team that average over 70 points per game. They forced 20 turnovers, the fifth-most giveaways Amherst had this season. They also held the Purple and White to their third-lowest point total and allowed just three points in the final seven minutes. “We made them earn every point they got,” Caverly said.

Caverly followed up her NESCAC Player of the Week with an impressive performance. She led the team with 13 points and displayed her physical toughness, shaking off a hard elbow to the face late in the first. Nolan came off the bench in her last game and scored the second most points on the team (7). She also hit a three-pointer late in the second quarter.

Despite losing Caverly, Nolan, and Lauren Barnhart ’17, the Mules have many reasons to look forward to future seasons. They exceeded expectations for this season and made it their second-straight semifinals round.

“[The underclassmen] got another taste for what it’s like to make the final four, and know what it takes to make it to the championship” Caverly said. “They’re a very hardworking and dedicated group of girls, and I have no doubt in my mind that they are going to work insanely hard in the off season to come back with a vengeance next year.”

With 11 players expected to return to next year’s roster, there is reason to believe this team can improve. It is now up to the players to capitalize.

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