AURORA, N.Y. – The Wells College women's basketball team clinched the North Eastern Athletic Conference North Division Regular Season Championship on Saturday, posting the program's first-ever victory over the Storm of Keuka College by a 76-68 score. With the win, the Express improve to 18-6 overall and to 12-2 within the conference while the Storm drop to 11-8 overall and to 10-4 within the league.
In their fourth year as a modern-era program, the Express have racked up a 10 game winning streak entering play on Sunday against the SUNY Institute of Technology. Their NEAC North Division Title is the school's first regular season division championship since the women's tennis team at Wells posted a 6-0 conference record to secure the top spot in the league's West Division in 2011-12.
So far in 2013-14, the Express have set program records for victories in a season (18), conference victories (12), longest winning streak (10), scoring average (67.8 ppg), field goal percentage (.382), rebounding average (51), assists average (14.4) and blocked shots average (5.7).
Senior captain Ashley Roser (Taberg, N.Y.) picked up her 80th career double-double in this evening's game, posting 29 total points alongside 16 rebounds for the Express. Additionally, Roser's double-double marked her 61st career double-double against a league opponent. She stands only three double-doubles shy of tying the all-time NCAA Division III record set by Kathryn Stockbower of Swarthmore College.
Junior Kaitlynne Knapp (Port Byron, N.Y.) ranked second on the team, scoring 15 total points while tying with Roser for the team lead in blocked shots with four. Senior Theresa Hernandez (Dewitt, N.Y.) picked up a team-high three steals for Wells and added nine rebounds for the Express. Junior Cassie Smythe (Eden, N.Y.) assisted five baskets for Wells in the victory.
Despite Wells building up an 11-4 lead within the game's first 5:35, Keuka was able to build up a strong 27-23 lead entering halftime following a strong performance down the stretch. Katie Stuart bombed a three-point basket with 3:01 left in the first half, giving the Storm their first lead of the game at 22-21. Despite a layup by Knapp, the Express allowed the Storm to score six-straight points entering halftime.
Perimeter shooting by the Storm elevated the guests to a nine-point lead only 2:59 into the second half as Casey Chamberlain and Taylor Szwec bombed back-to-back three-point baskets on back-to-back possessions. From there, the Storm built up a game-high 10 point lead following a layup by Brittany Sinnott.
The Express, however, fought back immediately and scored 12 of the game's next 15 points, capped off by a three-point basket from sophomore Holli Erkson (Cooperstown, N.Y.) with 12:38 left in the frame, elevating Wells to a 42-39 lead. The resilient Storm answered with six-straight points to recreate a seven point lead, 48-41, with 10:18 left in regulation time.
The Express, however, went on a run for the ages following a Szwec foul shot with 8:37 left in the second half. With a nine point lead, 52-43, the Storm defense allowed the game's next eight points to the Express, who caught up to within one point, 52-51, with just over 90 seconds elapsed. Roser then placed Wells ahead by one point with a layup with 5:31 left and she was able to convert the "and-one" play after being fouled by Chinyere Ukwu.
With the game tied at 60 aside with 3:33 left in regulation time, Wells took the lead for good after scoring 12 of the game's next 13 points and building up a game-high 11 point lead, 72-61, with 43 seconds left in regulation. The Storm scored the game's last seven points, but the run by the Express in the waning minutes built up an insurmountable lead for the visitors.
Keuka was led by Szwec and her team-leading totals of 21 total points and 18 rebounds. Stuart added 10 rebounds and eight points while Chamberlain poured home 13 points for the Storm. Szwec and Stuart each chipped in with two assist apiece in the losing effort.
The Express await the official schedule for the upcoming 2013-14 NEAC Women's Basketball Tournament. The Express, who have locked up the top seed in the North Division, will earn a first round bye and play an opponent to be determined. The tournament, hosted by South Division top seed Lancaster Bible College, will begin on Saturday, Mar. 1 and conclude on Sunday, Mar. 2.