Aguirre, Kopp Lift Wellesley Basketball To Last Second Win at Wheaton

Caitlin Aguirre led all scorers with 18 points in the Wellesley win (Frank Poulin).
Caitlin Aguirre led all scorers with 18 points in the Wellesley win (Frank Poulin).

NORTON, Mass. – Junior Caitlin Aguirre (El Paso, Texas) scored a game-high 18 points and classmate Emily Kopp (King Ferry, N.Y.) dropped in the go-ahead basket with five seconds to play as Wellesley College basketball defeated Wheaton College, 55-52, in New England Women's & Men's Athletic Conference (NEWMAC) action on Wednesday evening at Emerson Gymnasium.

The win helps the Blue improve to 8-10 overall and 5-7 in NEWMAC play, giving Wellesley sole possession of the seventh spot in the conference standings with four games to play in the NEWMAC season. Wheaton is now 9-11 overall and 4-8 in conference.

Aguirre was 6-of-11 from the floor with seven rebounds and three steals in 38 minutes of action. Sophomore Alyssa Cho (Hillsborough, Calif.) tallied a double-double with 13 points and 11 rebounds, while also adding five steals. Kopp totaled 12 points on 5-of-10 shooting, with none bigger than the go-ahead layup in the final moments of the fourth quarter.

Sophomore Karli Retzel (Lee, Mass.) and sophomore Mikayla Pucci (Hopkinton, Mass.) combined for 26 points, with each scoring 13, to lead Wheaton. Pucci also totaled a team-high six boards and two steals. Junior Natalie Wind (New Canaan, Conn.) chipped in with nine points, with seven coming in the second half. 

With Wellesley leading 36-30 following the third quarter, Wheaton staged a furious fourth quarter rally to erase the deficit with just 2:01 to play. Aguirre extend the Blue lead to 38-30 just 19 seconds into the fourth, but Wheaton followed with a 10-2 run, tying the scoring at 40-40, when Pucci hit a pair of free throws at 4:41. Kopp stalled the run with a jumper at 3:54, giving Wellesley the lead again at 42-20, but again Pucci would tie the game again less than minute later, making the score 42-42 at 3:04.

Junior Kendall You Mak (San Francisco, Calif.) converted on an and-one at 2:12 to give Wellesley a three-point advantage, 45-42, but Wheaton would counter again with senior Abby Hamilton (Gorham, Maine) knocking down a three at 2:01. Pucci came-up with a big steal on the next Wellesley possession before finding junior Ashley Hill (Pembroke, N.H.) up-court to give Wheaton their first lead, at 47-45, since the four-minute mark of the second quarter.

Trailing for the first time since the first half, Cho converted an and-one of her own on the next possession to help the Blue retake the lead, 48-47. With You Mak able to force a turnover on the next Wheaton possession, Aguirre calmly knocked down a pair of free throws with 32 seconds to play to give the Blue a 50-47 lead. However, Pucci cut the deficit to one, 50-49, with a jumper on the ensuing Wheaton possession.

With Wellesley leading by one, Kopp was only able to hit on one-of-two free throws, leaving the door open for the Lyons. Hamilton then found Wind with eleven seconds to play to put Wheaton ahead, 52-51. With one more chance to take the lead, Kopp made it count for the Blue, hitting a jumper with five seconds left to make the score 53-52. Following a Wheaton turnover, Aguirre hit two more free throws and stole the final Wheaton inbounds pass to seal the win, 55-52.

The game featured 11 lead changes and eight tied scores, as Wellesley shot 41.2% (21-of-51) and Wheaton countered at 33.3% (15-of-45). The Blue also had a 34-30 advantage on the glass.

Next up, Wellesley will travel to Springfield for a 3:00 PM contest on Saturday, February 2, at 3:00 PM. Wheaton will host Smith on Saturday at 1:00 PM.