WEST HARTFORD, Conn. – First year Caitlin Aguirre (El Paso, Texas) paced a balanced Blue offense with a team-high 13 points as Wellesley College basketball earned a 58-57 victory over Fitchburg St. on Saturday in the championship game of the 2016 University of Saint Joseph (Conn.) Tip-Off Tournament.
Wellesley improves to 2-0, winning back-to-back games at a season opening tournament for the first time since the Blue defeated Bryn Mawr and Agnes Scott at the 2010 Seven Sisters Championship. Fitchburg St. is now 1-2 on the year.
Aguirre added six rebounds, three assists and three steals to go along with her 13 points. Sophomore Zojajha Ayub (Belle Mead, N.J.) finished in double-figures for the second time in as many games, scoring 10 points, while adding five rebounds, a pair of assists and steals and a block. First year Kendall You Mak (San Francisco, Calif.) also chipped in with 10 points, while adding two assists and earning All-Tournament and tournament MVP honors. Classmate Emily Kopp (King Ferry, N.Y.) also earned All-Tournament recognition, finishing the contest with five points and five boards after scoring a game-high 14 points on Friday night.
Fitchburg St. sophomore Katelynn Rizzuto (West Boylston, Mass.) tallied a double-double, scoring a game-high 19 points and grabbing a game-high 11 rebounds. First years Kyra Rose (Rockland, Mass.) and Emma Thomson (York, Maine) chipped in with 13 and 12 points, respectively, with Rose also adding three boards and three steals for the Falcons.
The Blue got out to a three-point lead, 18-15, following a high scoring first quarter in which Aguirre scored seven of her 13 points and Wellesley knocked down both of their three-point attempts. An 'and-one' by You Mak gave the Blue a 21-15 edge at the start of the second, but Fitchburg St. countered with a 10-3 run to take a 25-24 lead following a jumper from Rose at 4:51 of the second. However, the Blue outscored the Falcons, 6-4, over the final four and an half minutes of the frame to take a 32-29 lead into the half.
Wellesley would continue to hold the lead in the opening minutes of the third quarter, taking a 34-29 edge following a jumper from senior Ailis Hanley (Cranston, R.I.). Hanley finished the game with seven points and six rebounds.
The Falcons continued to chip away at the Wellesley advantage, eventually tying the score when Thompson knocked down a three with a minute to go before the start of the fourth. The Blue would regain their edge when sophomore Brenna Butler (Smithtown, N.Y.) and You Mak hit consecutive jumpers to give the Blue a 47-43 lead at the end of the third.
Rizuto scored three straight points to open the fourth, cutting the Wellesley lead to one at 47-46, but the Falcons were ultimately unable to overtake the Blue in the final stanza. Hanley responded with a jumper before Rizuto again cut the margin to one, at 49-48, but the Blue would go on to take a 58-52 edge with 24 seconds left in the game. Fitchburg St. hit on back-to-back shots in the final seconds, but came up one-point short, dropping the 58-57 final.
Wellesley returns to action on Tuesday evening, November 22, with a 7:00 PM contest at Simmons. Fitchburg St. will host UMass.-Boston on Tuesday at 8:00 PM.
2016 USJ Tip-Off Tournament All-Tournament Team
Mitchell College - #10 Jessica Shepherd
University of Saint Joseph - #32 Carlee Putnam
Fitchburg State - #33 Kyra Rose
Wellesley - #30 Emily Kopp
Wellesley - #10 Kendall You Mak *Tournament MVP