NORTHAMPTON, Mass. -- Wellesley College basketball opened the game on a 17-6 run, but a furious Smith College rally helped the Pioneers steal a narrow 50-47 New England Women's & Men's Athletic Conference (NEWMAC) victory over the Blue on Saturday afternoon at Ainsworth Gym.
Smith has now won four NEWMAC games in-a-row to improve to 12-4 overall and 6-3 in conference play. Wellesley is now 4-11 overall (2-7 NEWMAC) following a pair of tough setbacks this week.
Smith junior Lauren Bondi (Burnaby, BC, Canada) scored 18 points to lead all players. Bondi finished just 4-for-11 from the field but capitalized on 8-of-10 attempts from the free throw line. Classmate Kennedy Guest-Pritchett (Fairburn, Ga.) scored 13 points and pulled down 10 rebounds to record her ninth double-double of the season. Senior Samantha Alakai (Pukalani, Hawaii) added 15 points, six rebounds, and two steals in 28 minutes off the Smith bench.
Four the fifth time in her last six games Wellesley sophomore Caitlin Aguirre (El Paso, Texas) finished in double-figures, scoring a team-high 15 points. Senior Kayla Jang (South Pasadena, Calif.) chipped in with nine points, five rebounds, and three steals. First year Alyssa Cho (Hillsborough, Calif.) added eight points in 16 minutes, while sophomore Kendall You Mak (San Francisco, Calif.) finished with a team-high six boards.
Aguirre scored eight of her team-high 15 points in the first 5:40 of the game, as the Blue jumped out to an 11-1 lead with 4:20 left in the opening quarter. Guest-Pritchett stopped the run with a layup at 3:51, but the Blue scored six of the final nine points in the quarter to take a 17-6 advantage into the second. The Pioneers narrowed the gap in the second, outscoring the Blue 19-9 to trim their 11-point deficit to one at the half when Bondi connected on a three-pointer in the final minute of the second to make the score 26-25 Wellesley at the break.
Wellesley continued to lead in the opening minutes of the second half. Jang nailed a triple on the Blue's opening possession and You Mak added a layup at 7:20 to increase the Wellesley advantage to 31-25. However, Guest-Pritchett scored on the next Smith possession to ignite a 10-2 Pioneer run that helped the hosts take their first lead of the afternoon, at 35-33, when Guest-Pritchett capped the run in the final minute of the third.
The Blue never regained the lead in the fourth quarter, despite pulling within a point with a minute to play. Bondi stretched the Smith edge to 37-33 with a three on the opening possession, as the Pioneers would go on to lead by as many as eight points when Guest-Pritchett scored at 4:49 to make the score 45-37. With Smith continuing to lead, 48-43, late in the fourth, senior Chelsea Brown (San Jose, Calif.) dropped in a jumper to make the score a one-possession game, at 48-45, for the first time since the 8:29 mark of the fourth. Aguirre pulled the Blue within one, 48-47, with a layup on the next Blue possession, but Smith knocked down a pair of late free throws to cap the comeback with a 50-47 win.
Wellesley will host Pine Manor in non-conference play on Tuesday, January 23, at 7:00 PM. Smith will play at Middlebury in their next contest on Monday evening, January 22, at 6:00 PM.