Fourth Quarter Rally Falls Just Short for Blue Basketball at WPI

Aguirre topped the 20-point plateau for the fourth time this season in Wellesley's setback at WPI (Miranda Yang).
Aguirre topped the 20-point plateau for the fourth time this season in Wellesley's setback at WPI (Miranda Yang).

WORCESTER, Mass. – Sophomore Caitlin Aguirre (El Paso, Texas) scored a game-high 21 points, but Wellesley College basketball came up just short on Wednesday evening, falling 67-60 to host WPI in New England Women's & Men's Athletic Conference (NEWMAC) play. 

WPI, the No. 10 ranked team in the region, is now 19-5 overall and 12-3 in conference. The Engineers will at least host a NEWMAC postseason game when the conference tournament begins next week and are still in the hunt for the regular season crown. The Blue drop to 8-14 on the year with a NEWMAC record of 5-10. 

Aguirre topped the 20-point plateau for the fourth time this season, scoring 18 of her 21 points in the second half and shooting 8-of-14 from the floor, with a game-high six rebounds, and two assists. Senior Kayla Jang (South Pasadena, Calif.) added 11 points, three assists, and three steals, while sophomore Emily Kopp (King Ferry, N.Y.) finished in double-figures for the third straight game, scoring 10 points to go along with four boards and a pair of steals.

Senior Madison Beck (Syracuse, N.Y.) scored 18 points to lead WPI. Classmate Ama Biney (Worcester, Mass.) added 17 points while matching Aguirre for game-high honors with six rebounds. First year Maddie Blake (Bedford, N.H.) added 11 of WPI's 20 bench points in 26 minutes of action.

With Wellesley trailing 60-54 in the fourth quarter, Aguirre scored six straight Wellesley points to tie the contest at 60-60 with 1:36 remaining in regulation. However, WPI first year Meg Donovan (Abington, Mass.) connected from beyond the arc to put WPI ahead for good with one minute left to play.

Beck and Biney knocked down back-to-back shots at 4:57 and 3:52 of the first to stretch a 10-7 WPI lead to 15-7. First year Alyssa Cho (Hillsborough, Calif.) responded for the Blue at 3:21, but WPI would outscore the Blue 6-4 over the final three minutes to a take a 21-13 lead. The Blue went on to outscore the host, 13-10, in the second quarter, closing the quarter with four straight points from Cho, to enter the half trailing by five, at 31-26. Wellesley closed the deficit to 35-33 just past the midway point of the third when first year Lane Arkangel (Redondo Beach, Calif.) dropped in a bucket at 4:42. However, WPI countered with a 7-0 run, taking a 42-33 advantage at 2:49, before carrying a 46-39 lead into the final stanza.

A three from Jang at the 5:28 mark of the fourth cut the Blue deficit to two, at 56-54, but back-to-back buckets from Biney stretched the WPI lead back to six. Despite Aguirre rallying the Blue, WPI would hold on for the 67-60 win.  

WPI shot 56% (28-for-50) from the floor, with the Blue countering at 46% (5-of-13). The Engineers also pulled down 31 rebounds to Wellesley's 21 and outscored the Blue 32-22 in the paint.

Wellesley returns home to host Senior Day on Saturday, February 17, at 2:00 PM against Mount Holyoke. WPI will also play at home on Saturday at 2:00 PM, when they host Emerson.