LANCASTER, Pa. – Trailing by 16 points through the game's first 7:25, the Wells College women's basketball team rallied to post a 67-60 victory over the Chargers of Lancaster Bible College in the North Eastern Athletic Conference Women's Basketball Championship game, earning their first conference title in program history. Wells improves to 19-8 overall on the season and have earned the league's automatic bid to the NCAA Division III Women's Basketball Tournament.
Lancaster Bible, who concludes their season with a 21-6 overall record, had not lost a league game (15-0) during the regular season of play and were undefeated in their last 26 NEAC contests. Their last NEAC loss came on Monday, Jan. 21, 2013 against the Wildcats from the SUNY Institute of Technology.
The Express will face-off against an opponent to be determined in the first round of the Division III Tournament. The official NCAA Division III Women's Basketball Selection show will air Monday, Mar. 3 at 2:30 p.m. Links to the live video broadcast will be available at http://www.wells-express.com on Monday.
"I thought that we started out really slow," remarked Head Coach Mike O'Brien following the game. "We didn't seem to have the fire and intensity that we need at the championship level. We made changes on defense that provided us that much needed spark."
"[Lancaster Bible] is such a good program – they play with heart, hustle and determination. We knew that they would be around at the end. It was certainly our program's greatest achievement to not only win but to come back against a strong program. They have great players and a great head coach," concluded O'Brien.
Senior Ashley Roser (Taberg, N.Y.), named the NEAC Player of the Year prior to the postseason's beginning, posted 21 total points and added 13 total rebounds for the Express. Additionally, she posted her 82nd collegiate double-double in the process and stands only one double-double short of tying the NCAA Division III record of 83 double-doubles set by Kathryn Stockbower of Swarthmore College.
Senior Kristen Ryan (Syracuse, N.Y.) played a strong game for Wells, chipping in 12 points while adding two three-point baskets to lead the team in that category. Sophomore Lindsay Achzet (Johnstown, N.Y.) converted 7-of-8 foul shots for Wells to lead the team while junior Jessilyn Artaho-Aki (Kapa'a, Hawaii) ranked second amongst all Wells players with 15 points after shooting 6-for-11 from the floor.
Trailing by a 36-31 margin at halftime, Wells captured their first lead of the game with a Roser jump shot only 4:25 into the second half. Lancaster Bible, however, rebuilt a five point cushion with 8:56 left in the second half via a three-point basket from Katy Stover. The Express, however, countered with the game's next six points to recapture a 51-50 lead following a Roser layup.
Sent to the line following a foul, Stover buried both free throws at 6:27 of the second half to once again give her team the lead, 52-51. Wells, however, took charge of the game from this point as Roser made a layup and the "and-one" foul shot to place the Express ahead by a 54-52 margin. From there, Wells and Lancaster traded baskets before a strong push with only three minutes to go placed the Express ahead for good.
A missed layup by Ryan kicked off the rim to Artaho-Aki, who was fouled by a Lancaster Bible player. She quickly made both free throws to give her team a four point lead. The Chargers missed their team's next layup and the Express immediately scored using a layup from junior Cassie Smythe (Eden, N.Y.) on the other end to give their team a six point lead with 1:58 remaining in regulation time.
Despite scoring the first basket of the game following a Roser layup, the Chargers quickly tied the game with a layup by Aubrey Folger only 31 seconds into the contest. Stover struck next for Lancaster Bible, converting a jumper to place the hosts up by a 6-2 margin. Achzet was fouled and buried both foul shots, but the Chargers scored the game's next 14 points to build up a 20-4 lead with 12:35 left in the first half.
Following a Wells timeout, the Express came out shooting and battled back in the game. Cumulatively, Wells forced home three shots from beyond the arc as Ryan notched two three-pointers while Artaho-Aki also added one of her own. Trailing by a 32-22 margin with 2:58 left in the first half, Ryan's second "three" of the half keyed a Wells run that saw them score seven-straight points in the waning minutes.
Wells trailed by only three points, 32-29, with 1:56 left in the first following a Roser jump shot. Despite four-straight points by Lancaster Bible, Wells closed the half strong and utilized a two pointer from Artaho-Aki to cut the halftime deficit down to five points, 36-31. In the first half alone, Ryan led all Wells players with 12 points while Artaho-Aki struck for seven of her own.
Lancaster Bible was led by Folger's 24 points as she shot 10-of-16 from the floor in this afternoon's game. Stover ranked second with 19 total points while Sarah Heilenman racked up 10 points for the Chargers.