Wellesley, Mass. – Wellesley basketball capitalized on a hot-shooting first half and held off a furious second-half charge from Clark, as the No. 3-seeded Blue downed the No. 6 Cougars, 59-51, at Keohane Sports Center on Wednesday night.
The win lifts the Blue to 14-9 overall. They advance to the NEWMAC semifinals on Saturday at Babson College, where they will face Smith in a 3pm match-up. Clark finishes the season at 13-13.
Wellesley dominated the first half, shooting 48% from the field and 63% from behind the arc while holding Clark to 19% and 7%, respectively. The Blue also doubled up the Cougars on the boards, grabbing 24 rebounds to the visitors' 12. Wellesley then held off a furious second-half surge from Cougars in route to the win.
The Blue seized the momentum early with jumpers from Ashleigh Sargent and Courtney Jackson and a trey from Malia Maier for a 7-0 lead. Clark came alive, using buckets from Emily Reilly, Ashleigh Condon, and Kelsey Giedymin to trim the lead to 10-6 with 13:42 remaining.
Wellesley responded to the surge with a 15-0 run over the next six minutes, highlighted by sharp three-point shooting from Maier and Leslie Leong. Clark's Brooke Brennan stopped the bleeding with a trey at the 7:02 mark to put the score at 25-9, but a stifling Wellesley defense held the visitors to just three more points as they took a 33-12 lead into the break.
Brennan opened the second half with a three-pointer for Clark, but Wellesley answered with nine straight to put the score at 42-15 and give themselves a 27-point cushion with 13:53 remaining. The Cougars surged with a 14-3 run to whittle the lead to 45-29 with 8:03 left on the clock. Wellesley pushed back, extending the lead to a seemingly insurmountable 51-31 lead at the 5:11 mark, but Clark wasn't finished.
Sparked by pressure defense, up-tempo offense, and solid outside shooting, the Cougars slashed away at the Wellesley lead over the next three minutes. With three-pointers from Megan Grondin (Cumberland, Maine), Condon, Breeann Redman (Bristol, Conn.), and two more from Brennan, Clark cut the lead to 51-45 with 2:42 remaining. Twenty seconds later, after two free throws from Reilly, the visitors were within four. Wellesley finally halted the charge with a Maier three-pointer, then held the visitors to just four points in the closing minutes as they hung on for the 59-51 win.
Maier paced Wellesley with a team-high 13 points to go along with seven assists, six rebounds and three steals. Jackson and Leong each added nine points while Ashleigh Sargent picked up six points and six rebounds. Chelsi Scott added a team-high nine rebounds as Wellesley led Clark on the boards, 45-35.
Clark's Brennan drained six threes to finish with a game-high 18 points, while Condon and Reilly rounded out the scoring with 14 and 10. Grondin was Clark's top rebounder, pulling down seven boards, while also picking up four steals.