For the third straight season, the Wells College women's basketball team has qualified for the North Eastern Athletic Conference playoffs and, in doing so, secured the league's seventh seed. After capturing fourth place in the NEAC North Division following the regular season, Wells won the crossover contest against Penn College, who finished fourth in the NEAC South Division, to earn the final postseason spot.
The Express will play the host Chargers of Lancaster Bible College at 7 p.m. on Tuesday, Feb. 24. Lancaster Bible won their third-straight divisional title after going 18-2 in NEAC play and will play Wells in what is a rematch of last season's conference championship game. In that contest, the Express picked up their first-ever NEAC Championship title after rallying from a 16 point deficit to secure a 67-60 victory.
SCOUTING THE EXPRESS: Wells concluded the regular season with a 9-14 overall record and an 8-10 mark in North Eastern Athletic Conference play. Offensively, Wells is led by junior Holli Erkson (Cooperstown, N.Y.) and her 13.9 points per game. The team's other four primary starters, senior Kaitlynne Knapp (Port Byron, N.Y.), senior Jessilyn Artaho-Aki (Kapa'a, Hawaii), senior Cassie Smythe (Eden, N.Y.) and junior Lindsay Achzet (Johnstown, N.Y.) all set career-highs in points per game.
In her third year with the Express, Erkson scored 320 points to post the fifth-best single season total in program history and bombed a single-season record 46 three-point field goals. Her 56 steals currently stand as the third-most in a single season. Knapp shot over 40% from the floor (83-for-204) and led her team with 53 blocks while Artaho-Aki tied for the team lead with 55 assists. Smythe poured home a career-best 33% of her long distance field goals while Achzet's 128 rebounds were tied for the team lead.
SCOUTING THE CHARGERS: Lancaster Bible has posted an outstanding 68-16 overall record dating back to the start of the 2012-13 season. This season, the Chargers are led by junior Aubrey Folger, the 2012-13 NEAC Rookie of the Year, and her conference-leading 52.3% field goal percentage after pouring home an impressive 192-of-367. A force on the glass, her 306 total rebounds in 25 games place her fourth amongst NEAC players and her free throw percentage of 77.2% (78-for-101) places fifth amongst conference players.
Senior Shanice Smith ranks above Folger in rebounding for Lancaster Bible, posting 327 rebounds (13.1 per game) while also shooting 46.2% (122-for-264) from the floor. Junior Katy Stover is another offensive force for the Chargers as she ranks seventh in the NEAC in points per game (16.8) while shooting 36% from three-point land, seventh in the conference.
HOW WELLS QUALIFIED: Wells, Cazenovia College and Keuka College posted 8-10 records in NEAC play, tying for third place in the final NEAC North Division standings. Due to tiebreaker rules and regulations, Cazenovia earned the third seed due to their 3-1 record against Keuka and Wells. Keuka and Wells split their head-to-head matchups this past season, but Wells picked up a victory over Cazenovia in two meetings while Keuka was 0-2 on the year against the Wildcats.
Because of Wells' 73-68 victory over Cazenovia, Keuka is eliminated from the playoffs after the tiebreaker scenarios. Ultimately, Wells enters the playoffs as the fourth seed because of their decisive 93-76 victory over Penn College, the fourth seed in the NEAC South Division. Had Wells lost to Penn College, the Express would not have earned a postseason spot and the fourth seed from the South Division would have qualified.
ALL-TIME vs. LANCASTER BIBLE: The Chargers hold a 5-1 advantage all-time against the Express, but their one loss came at the most inopportune time. Lancaster Bible has won 16 of their last 17 contests playing at home within the Horst Athletic Center with their only loss during that stretch coming to the Express. In that contest, Wells knocked off the host (and top-seeded) Chargers on Mar. 2, 2014 to claim their first conference championship and their first NCAA Division III Tournament berth.
Earlier this year, Wells posted a 57-47 loss to Lancaster Bible in a thrilling game that saw the two teams tied at the half. Trailing by as much as 10, Wells rallied to shrink the deficit to one point, 46-45, following an Anita Babb (Auburn, N.Y.) layup with 5:36 to go in regulation time. The Express, however, immediately allowed a layup to the Chargers and then committed two turnovers and missed their next two field goals. During that span, the Chargers scored eight-straight points and the game officially slipped out of reach for Wells.
PROGRAM HISTORY: After a 30-plus year hiatus, the Wells College women's basketball team was revived prior to the 2010-11 academic year. Led by Head Coach Mike O'Brien, the Express steadily improved their performance leading up to their first NEAC title following the 2013-14 season. In that year, Wells became the second team in school history to participate at the NCAA Division III Basketball Tournament and lost to the eventual national champions from FDU-Florham.
THE STREAK IS ALIVE!: Wells College men's and women's basketball teams currently have the second-longest active postseason streak within NEAC play. Dating back to the 2008-09 season, at least one Wells basketball team has made the playoffs, the second-longest current streak in conference play. Keuka College, a founding member of the NEAC, has made the postseason with at least one team each year since 2004-05.