NORTON, Mass. - First year Caitlin Aguirre (El Paso, Texas) scored a game-high 15 points to lead Wellesley College basketball to 49-44 New England Women's & Men's Athletic Conference (NEWMAC) victory over Wheaton College on Saturday at Emerson Gymnasium.
The Blue got back on track after dropping back-to-back contests, improving to 8-7 overall and 4-5 in NEWMAC games. Wheaton drops to 3-15 on the year and is now just 1-9 in conference.
Aguirre knocked down 2-of-3 from long distance, adding four steals, four rebounds and an assist for the Blue. Senior Ailis Hanley (Cranston, R.I.) joined Aguirre in double figures, scoring 10 points to go along with four rebounds and three assists. Sophomore Zojajha Ayub (Belle Mead, N.J.) pulled down a team-high six rebounds for the Blue, also scoring seven points in 31 minutes of action. Every member of the Blue recorded at least two rebounds in the game, while Wellesley finished the afternoon shooting 34.7 percent from the field and 4-of-12 from distance.
Wheaton first year Lexi L'Heureux-Carland (Bridgton, Maine) finished the game one rebound shy of a double-double, netting a career-best 11 points and grabbing nine rebounds. Junior Ruthie Zientek (Holmdel, N.J.) chipped in with 10 points, two rebounds, two assists and two steals in the setback. Senior Sophia Black (Gloucester, Mass.) grabbed seven boards and tied for game-high honors by dishing out four assists.
Wheaton shot 16-of-44 (36.4%) in the contest, jumping out to a 13-11 lead in the first quarter, before Wellesley rallied with a 13-8 second quarter effort to take a 24-21 lead into the half. With Wellesley leading 9-6 following a pair of free throws from Aguirre at 3:19, Wheaton scored seven-straight to take a 13-9 edge. Hanley hit a jumper to snap the rally at 1:58, but the two sides went scoreless for the next three minutes of play.
L'Heureux-Carland hit a jumper to open the second, but back-to-back Blue buckets from junior Chelsea Brown (San Jose, Calif.) and Aguirre put Wellesley up 16-15 at 7:51. L'Heureux-Carland briefly made the score 17-16 Wheaton before an 8-0 Wellesley run, capped by a jumper from first year Lauren Dines (Tenafly, N.J.), made the score 24-17 Wellesley. Wheaton closed the half with back-to-back buckets to send the teams to the break separated by only three points.
The Blue lead grew to as many as eight in the third quarter, with Aguirre scoring five of Wellesley's 12 points in the stanza to help the visitors take a 35-27 advantage at the 3:44 mark. Wheaton closed the gap to just one point before the start of the fourth, scoring eight of the final nine points in the third to trim the Wellesley lead to 36-35.
The Lyons got close but failed to get past the Blue, as Wellesley re-established their eight-point edge in the fourth quarter when a jumper from Hanley with just 2:18 remaining gave the Blue a 47-39 lead. L'Heureux-Carland and Black scored the next five points for the Lyons to get the hosts back to within three, at 47-44, with a minute to play. However, a pair of free throws from Ayub sealed the 49-44 victory in final seconds of the contest. Wellesley knocked down 11-of-14 free throws in the contest, while Wheaton managed to hit on just 8-of-17 of their attempts from the line.
Wellesley will take on Clark for the second time in NEWMAC play at 7:00 PM on Wednesday, January 25, in Worcester. Wheaton will play a non-conference contest at Roger Williams on Monday, January 23, at 5:30 PM.