Immediate Release: March 3, 2004
Contact: David Berman (firstname.lastname@example.org)
Bearcats clinch #2 seed with 64-60 overtime win
Binghamton edges Hartford for sixth straight victory
VESTAL, N.Y.--An offensive rebound and subsequent putback by sophomore guard Rachel Laws (Wyncote, Pa.) with 18 seconds left in overtime gave the Bearcats one final lead, and Binghamton (17-8, 12-5 America East) edged visiting Hartford (18-10, 9-8 AE) 64-60 on Wednesday evening at the Events Center.
After a Hartford free three throw with 1:48 remaining in the extra period evened the score at 60-60, each team traded missed shots and the Bearcats had the ball with just over a minute left. Binghamton missed two shots in a row on the offensive end, but got the rebound each time, including Laws' crucial putback. Senior guard Kate Townley (St. Paul, Minn.) then produced a steal and two free throws with eight seconds remaining to ice the win.
There were five ties and five lead changes in the final three minutes of regulation, and a clutch three-pointer by Hartford freshman Ikea Witt with seven seconds remaining forced overtime. Earlier in the half, the Hawks built on a one-point halftime advantage and led by as many as seven points on two occasions. However, the Bearcats gradually started to chip away at the lead, and tied the game at 42-42 with 3:49 left.
Hartford proceeded to score on its next four possessions, and a layup by junior center Tanika Price with 1:51 left gave the Hawks a 50-49 lead. It was their final lead of the evening, however, as Binghamton appeared to be carrying all the momentum down the stretch. The Bearcats scored on all 10 of its possessions in the final five minutes of regulation, including six straight trips to the line in the final 2:43. Laws, senior forward Leala Wegwerth (Maplewood, Minn.) and sophomore forward Jen Haubrich (Bow, N.H.) combined to make seven free throws in that span, the last of which gave Binghamton a 53-50 advantage with 32 seconds remaining. On the other end, however, Hartford sophomoge guard Erika Messam rebounded her own missed shot, and after a timeout with 13 seconds left Witt stepped back from a defender and nailed her game-tying shot.
"Wow," said BU head coach Rich Conover. "That was a gritty, super effort by Binghamton against the best defensive team in the league. Hartford is an outstanding team and made plays down the stretch to get it to overtime, but it was a determined effort by the Bearcats in the closing minutes that got the win."
Wegwerth led Binghamton with a career-high 22 points and Laws notched her sixth double-double of the season with 17 points and 10 rebounds. Wegwerth's final six points came in the last 3:18 of regulation, and she made 8-of-10 free throws for the game. Laws was at her best with the game on the line, racking up seven points and four rebounds (three offensive) in the extra period. In all, Laws had 13 points and seven rebounds after halftime, and her six offensive rebounds led to nine of her points. Townley scored six points and tallied a career-high 11 rebounds. It was the second time this season and fourth time in her career that the 5-foot-10 point guard reached double figures in rebounding.
Price and Witt each scored 11 points for Hartford, which received balanced production throughout the lineup. Senior guard Bridget Murray and sophomore guard Danielle Wexler combined for five three-pointers in the first half, and six players scored at least six points for the Hawks.
Rebounding played a key factor at the end of what had been a tight battle throughout. Hartford never led by more than seven points and the Bearcats four-point margin of victory was their largest lead of the game. Binghamton matched a season-high with 46 rebounds, including 18 on the offensive end, and wound up with a plus-nine rebound advantage on the evening. BU outrebounded the Hawks 14-7 in the final five minutes of regulation and overtime.
"Binghamton is a hard team to build a big lead on," Hartford coach Jen Rizzotti said. "They are tough defensively and whenever they really need a score they seem to come up with a hustle play to get closer. They make plays on both ends of the floor and benefit from the experience of their seniors."
Binghamton concludes the regular season at home with a contest against Vermont on Saturday at 1 p.m. A recognition ceremony will be held prior to the game to honor Bearcat seniors Townley, Wegwerth and Nicole Dypolt (Calgary, Alberta). With tonight's win, however, Binghamton clinched the #2 seed in next week's America East Championship. The Bearcats can finish no worse than in a tie for second place with Boston University. Binghamton is one game in front of the Terriers and each team has one regular season game remaining. Should the teams wind up tied for second, the Bearcats would win a tiebreaker based on sweeping the season series with Boston University. The #2 seed is Binghamton's highest in its three years in the conference, and the Bearcats will play a quarterfinal game on March 10 against the winner of a first-round game between the #7 and #10 seeds.
NOTES: The six-game winning streak is Binghamton's second of the season ... The Bearcats have gone 12-4 in its past 16 games by winning six consecutive games on both ends of a four-game losing streak ... Close games are nothing new for BU, which is 8-2 this season in games decided by 1-5 points, and 3-1 in overtime ... The team's margin of victory during the six-game winning streak is just 3.8 points ... The four overtime games are the most in a single-season in school history ... Laws reached double figures for the 23rd straight game and 24th time in 25 outings this season ... Haubrich tied a career-high with nine points, all in the second half ... Hartford had three players foul out, and the Bearcats made more than 20 free throws (21) for the third time in its past four games.
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