LEWISTON, Maine — Coming into Saturday's game, Claire Baecher's 21-point performance against Bridgewater State ranked as the only 20-point game that any Eph had registered through the season’s first 11 contests.
By the time the buzzer signaling the end of the first half sounded at Underhill Arena, Grace Rehnquist had already outdone her teammate by one. And she wasn't done either.
A 32-point explosion from Rehnquist catapulted the Williams women's basketball team to a resounding 71-36 win over Bates, giving the Ephs their first New England Small College Athletic Conference win of the season. The win also represented a remarkable turnabout from last night's frustrating 61-57 loss at Tufts and left the Ephs with a 10-2 record overall (1-1 NESCAC), while the Bobcats suffered their second straight loss and fell to 5-7 (0-2 NESCAC).
Although the Ephs never trailed, they struggled with turnovers early as the two teams traded baskets to kick things off. Jennie Harding had a big offensive impact for the second night in a row and scored five of the Ephs' first seven points before eventually finishing with 13 (along with four assists) in just 18 minutes thanks to a potent mix of drives and pull-up three-pointers, a performance that impressed coach Pat Manning.
"Jennie is just getting better and better each game," said Manning.
With the score 7-7 and just over four minutes elapsed, Rehnquist checked into the game for the first time and immediately made her presence felt with a pair of three-pointers in 31 seconds to give the Ephs a six-point advantage and prompt Bates coach Jim Murphy to burn his first timeout. However, the move did little to slow down Rehnquist, who found herself on the receiving end of a pass from Ellen Cook and effortlessly drained another three from at least two strides behind the top of the key.
While the Bobcats still kept the game close for much of the half and pulled to within seven when Allie Beaulieu found Brianna Hawkins wide-open under the basket for an easy lay-in, Harding kept them from getting too close by creating some space behind the arc and firing up a three to extend the Eph lead to its largest margin of the day at 26-16. Moments later, Harding again nipped a potential Bobcat rally in the bud with a baseline three from the corner following a Manning timeout, a shot that sparked the Ephs on a 17-4 run to close the half.
Of those 17 points, 13 came from Rehnquist. On the Ephs' next possession after Harding's third three, Rehnquist clanked a long shot from the corner off the rim that took a fortuitous bounce towards a well-positioned Danny Rainer. Rainer hit Rehnquist, who was following her shot, in stride on her way to the basket for an easy lay-up on a play that typified the kind of day that Rehnquist and her teammates were having.
Soon, the points were flying thick and fast and Rehnquist began shooting and draining threes no matter how far she found herself behind the line. She also mixed in a few head fakes and drives to the hoop to keep her defenders off-balance, an extra element in her game that made her nearly unstoppable as the half wound down.
A stingy Ephs defense held the Bobcats to just 12 points on only four field goals in the entire second half.
As the Ephs' lead continued to grow throughout the game, Rehnquist began to close in on the team's all-time single-game scoring record of 36 points, set by Melissa Skeffington in a game against Connecticut College during the 2001-2002 season.
The Ephs will return home to face off against Little Three rival Wesleyan in further NESCAC action next Friday evening, with tip-off scheduled for 8 p.m. Meanwhile, the Bobcats are scheduled to visit Maine Presque Isle for a non-conference game on Tuesday.