NORTH ADAMS, Mass. - The Curry College women's basketball team narrowly edged the MCLA Trailblazers 55-53 in North Adams on Monday night in both teams' final non-conference matchup of the season. The Colonels collect their third straight victory and move to 13-10 on the year, while MCLA falls to 5-17 overall. Despite a tight contest throughout the second half, a missed layup at the final buzzer by the Trailblazers proved to be the difference.
This game got out to a quiet start, as the scoreboard stayed silent through the first four possessions, until senior guard Emily Irwin (Billerica, Mass.) found classmate Molly Plunkett (Quincy, Mass.) beyond the arc for a 3, giving Curry an early lead. MCLA's offense continued to struggle however, missing their first eight shots and committing five turnovers before junior Erika Ryan (Clifton Park, N.Y.) found the basket for the first MCLA points of the day. The Colonels had already scored eight points of their own, though, and a pair of free throws by freshman Amanda Leal (Tyngsboro, Mass.) brought the Curry lead back to eight at 10-2. With just 3:30 remaining in the first frame, guard Shannon Carney (Averill Park, N.Y.) hit the Trailblazers first triple of the day, which would soon be followed by a pair of converted free throws by Courtney Pingelski (Mechanicville, N.Y.) to cut the Curry lead to three. On the following possession, a Carney steal gave MCLA a chance to cut the lead once more, but an off-line attempt at a fast break layup gave the ball back to Curry, who collected a pair of offensive rebounds, but failed to make them count as the Colonels remained scoreless from the floor since the 5:38 mark of the first quarter. With the frame winding down, Plunkett found her stroke once more from distance, pulling the Colonels ahead to a 14-7 advantage to head to the first break.
Curry once again opened the quarter with the ball, but mirrored the first period as the possession came up empty. MCLA started the scoring for the quarter on a layup from Hannah Mazzeo (Averill Park, N.Y.), who again found the basket just 30 seconds later to pull the Trailblazers again to within a possession at 14-11. Irwin and Leal each converted jumpers for the visitors, but these baskets were split by a triple from Pingelski to keep MCLA close. After a Curry timeout, junior Sam Bamford (Easton, Mass.) found her way to the hoop and drew the foul, extending the Colonels' lead to six at 20-14, despite missing the free throw. After a Ryan jumper, Irwin came up big on the offensive boards, collecting two straight rebounds before freshman Peyton Perine (Fairfax, Va.) found her way to the free throw line. After the freshman converted both, L'Rae Brundige (Valley Falls, N.Y.) got to the charity stripe as well to recuperate the pair of points for the Trailblazers, but Irwin's defense shined over the ensuing possessions, converting three steals into five points to close out the half thanks to a layup and a free throw of her own paired with a basket by Perine to bring Curry's edge at the intermission to 27-18.
Despite carrying the lead into the half, the Colonels struggled to get out of the gates as the third quarter got underway, surrendering six straight points to the Trailblazers and watching their lead dwindle to just one. Nearly two and a half minutes into the frame, Plunkett broke Curry out of their funk with a triple to bring the lead back to four, which was soon followed by another three, this one from Leal. With five minutes left to play in the third, Mazzeo hit a layup to cut the lead to three, but the Colonels remained inconsistent from the floor, which allowed Mazzeo to tie the game after another basket and a pair of free throws. Knotted at 34, Irwin found her way to the line and split a pair of chances to retake the lead, before driving into the lane and hitting a layup to make it 37-34. The three point spread wouldn't last long, however, as a pair of free throws from Kylah Langston (East Hartford, Conn.) preceded a pair of scores for each team, rounding out the third quarter with a tie score of 40 all.
After suffering through just 23% shooting from the floor in the third frame, Curry looked to buck the trend, but after two minutes and a trio of misfires, it was the Trailblazers who had built a 44-40 lead. Leal hit a three to cut the deficit, which, following a Pingelski free throw, led to another tie score when Irwin found Perine inside for a layup. This time, however, the freshman center converted the old fashioned three point play after drawing a foul on the bucket, giving the Colonels their first lead of the quarter at 46-45. With 5:24 remaining in regulation, Irwin once again found Perine inside, extending their lead to four, but the Trailblazers weren't far behind, getting buckets from Mazzeo and Ryan to knot it at 49. The opponents went back and forth once more, which each team securing brief leads, but as the clock continued to wind down, another Ryan jumper made it 53-53 with 58 ticks left to play. After a short Curry possession which ultimately culminated in a missed layup, the Trailblazers looked to lock up the matchup, calling a time out with 34 seconds to go and the ball in hand. As play resumed, the hosts attempted to chew what little time remained, but a stingy Colonels defense forced a steal, springing Irwin for a fast break layup and a two point lead with just 7 seconds to play, forcing the hosts to once again call time. After advancing the ball and drawing up a play, the Trailblazers inbounded to guard Mckenzie Robinson (Adams, Mass.), who drove to the basket, but couldn't get around the smothering defense of Irwin, who forced a missed layup as time expired, securing a close 55-53 victory for the Colonels.
Irwin registered a double-double on the day with game-highs in points (18) and rebounds (14) and nearly collected her first career triple-double, as the NCAA Division 3 steals leader snatched up nine more in the contest. Irwin also led the way with seven assists, while Perine (12) and Leal (10) contributed double digit scoring efforts in the win. Pingelski also recorded a double-double, picking up 14 points and 13 rebounds, while Mazzeo matched her point total at 14. Robinson dished out four helpers in the contest while Ryan posted the Trailblazers' only two blocks.
Following the exciting win, Curry has just two games remaining on their regular season schedule, both of which are Commonwealth Coast Conference contests. The Colonels will play next on Wednesday, February 13 at 5:30 p.m. at home against Roger Williams on Senior Night as they plan to honor Irwin and Plunkett. Curry looks to flip the script after falling to the Hawks 59-55 in Bristol, R.I. on January 8. MCLA also resumes action on Wednesday, staying home to face MASCAC opponent Salem St. at 7:30 p.m. in a rematch of a January 22 tilt which saw the Vikings collect a 56-38 win.