Update, 7:30 p.m., Feb. 23: Taylor DeSanty scored a game-high 27 points to lead the Colby-Sawyer College women's basketball team to a 65-59 win over top-seeded Castleton State in the finals of the North Atlantic Conference tournament on Saturday afternoon.
DeSanty shot 9-for-16 from the field, including 5-for-8 from 3-point range, and Cailin Bullett had five assists for the Chargers (23-5) who earned the NAC's automatic berth in the NCAA Division III championship.
Drury graduate Taylor DeSanty is Colby-Sawyer's all-time leading scorer.
CASTLETON, Vt. — A case of mistaken identity seven years ago helped Colby-Sawyer College women's basketball coach George Martin identify the player who would become his program's all-time leading scorer this winter.
"I went to the Bay State Games when Taylor [DeSanty] was going into her sophomore year," Martin said of the Drury High School graduate who became the Chargers' all-time leading scorer in her senior season.
"Taylor's dad walked in, and I thought it was Erika's father. There was such a family resemblance."
Turns out it wasn't the father of Erika DeSanty — a standout for Martin and the Chargers herself - but his brother, whose daughter Taylor would end up carrying on the family tradition at the central New Hampshire college.
Saturday afternoon, Taylor DeSanty and this generation of Chargers hope to carry Martin's tradition-rich program back where it has not been in five years: the NCAA Division III tournament.
On Friday night, DeSanty scored 10 points in a 62-52 win over New England College in the semi-finals of the North Atlantic Conference tournament. Saturday afternoon, the Chargers play No. 1 seed Castleton State College for the league's automatic ticket to the big dance.
It has been an impressive four years at Colby-Sawyer for DeSanty. In addition to setting the Chargers' all-time scoring mark, she is a two-time NAC Player of the Year, three-time all-league selection, two-time New Hampshire Division III Player of the year and last year's Outstanding Female Athlete at the college.
On Friday night, she said she would probably trade some of the personal accolades for a Saturday win against Castleton, which knocked off the Chargers in last year's league championship game.
"[The scoring title] is a big accomplishment, but my big goal is to win the conference championship," she said. "When all of our team contributes, that's when we play our best. Hopefully, we'll show up tomorrow afternoon and we'll get the job done.
"It's going to be a battle because we've beaten them once, and they beat us once (this year). They beat us in the conference championship here last year. They know we're going to come out strong, and we know they're going to come out strong."
Martin said the one missing piece on the resume of his senior class has helped keep the team focused all season.
"I think it's added a little bit of extra drive throughout everything we've done this year," he said earlier this week. "That's something we've been thinking about since we lost to Castleton last year right to when we drive there tomorrow. That's been in the forefront of their minds."
Colby-Sawyer's senior class includes not only DeSanty but backcourt mate Cailin Bullett, the granddaughter of Bucky Bullett, for whom the gymnasium at Drury High School is named.
Bullett is a highly decorated collegian in her own right with three all-league selections including first-team honors this year. On the same day DeSanty broke the Chargers' all-time scoring mark, Bullett set the school's all-time assist record, passing Erika DeSanty for the top spot.
Martin describes both Bullett and DeSanty as versatile players who can do more than just distribute and score, respectively. On Friday night against NEC, their versatility was on display in a critical 13-4 second-half run that broke open a tight game.
Colby-Sawyer, which beat the Pilgrims by 16 points and 33 points in their regular season meetings, led by just seven at half-time in their playoff match-up. It was still a seven-point margin 2 minutes, 27 seconds into the second half when DeSanty fired a pass into the post to set up classmate Sammi Lehr, who made it 36-27.
Six minutes later, Bullett scored on a drive in transition to make it 47-31, and the Chargers never looked back. She had seven points in the run and a game-high 20 points in the win.
"A few weeks ago, when she scored 31 [against Thomas College], someone on our coaching staff said, 'I didn't know she could score,' " Martin said. "I said, 'She can. She chooses not to.' "
But DeSanty knows how much of a scoring threat Bullett can be. In fact, after four years in the backcourt together, they know just about everything there is to know about each other's game.
"Bullett can definitely see the floor well," DeSanty said of the Millbury High School graduate. "She knows when to pass it. She knows when to drive. She knows when to shoot. She can see me when I'm open. She knows when I'm there. And I can see her.
"She'll drive, and if I'm there, she'll give it to me. I'll drive, and if she's there I'll give it to her. If not, we know when to take it."
And together, they have taken Colby-Sawyer back to the doorstep of another league championship.
But win or lose today, DeSanty and Bullett have already given the Colby-Sawyer program a better foundation for the future, Martin said.
"They're both great teammates," he said. "We have eight freshmen on our team this year, and if you walked into practice right now, you couldn't tell the five seniors from the eight freshmen. A couple of [the seniors] spend more time with the freshmen than with the senior class.
"They've done a remarkable job of blending youth with the upperclassmen into one cohesive unit."