AURORA, N.Y. – The Wells College women's basketball team lost a game-high 17 point lead, losing to Morrisville State College by a 71-70 score Tuesday evening at the Farenthold Athletic Wing. With the tough loss, Wells falls to 8-13 (7-9 NEAC) while the Mustangs improve to 17-7 (13-4 NEAC).
Senior Jessilyn Artaho-Aki (Kapa'a, Hawaii) scored a team-best 19 points, shooting 4-for-7 from beyond the arc. Junior Holli Erkson (Cooperstown, N.Y.) scored 16 points for Wells, bombing five three-point baskets while classmate Lindsay Achzet (Johnstown, N.Y.) scored 11 points. Senior Kaitlynne Knapp (Port Byron, N.Y.) threw up five blocks and scored 10 points for the Express.
Seniors Artaho-Aki, Knapp and Cassie Smythe (Eden, N.Y.) were all honored with a pregame ceremony on Senior Day. All three were members of the 2014 NEAC Champion women's basketball team from Wells, the second-ever squadron from Aurora to compete at the NCAA Division III Tournament across all of the College's sports teams.
Wells opened up a 9-0 lead in the contest after Artaho-Aki and Erkson hit back-to-back three's within a span of 38 seconds. From there, Wells enjoyed a 17-4 lead after an Artaho-Aki jumper with 5:17 elapsed in regulation time. The game-high lead for the Express came following a Jasmine Thomas (Las Vegas, Nev.) floater with 9:44 left in the first half, placing Wells up 28-11.
The visitors, however, countered with five points in the next 21 seconds and placed Wells briefly on their heels. Thomas, however, answered with a jumper for two points and Erkson's third trey of the day reestablished a 17 point lead for the hosts. After a brief Morrisville State comeback, Achzet buried back-to-back free throws with 1:12 left to give Wells a 41-27 lead. A layup by Jennel Paul in the last six seconds of the half added two points for the Mustangs, creating a 41-29 halftime lead for the Express.
The Express offense went almost silent in the first 10:30 of the second half, allowing Morrisville State to score 24 of the half's first 32 points. The Mustangs posted their first lead of the game following a Caitlynn Adams layup with 9:36 left in regulation, capping off a run of seven-straight Morrisville State points over a span of 1:49.
Erkson's fifth three-point basket of the game propelled Wells into the lead by a 61-57 score with 4:26 left in regulation time, but Wells allowed the Mustangs to score six-straight points over a span of 1:51. Sophomore Anita Babb (Auburn, N.Y.) scored four points for the Express, giving them their final lead of the afternoon at 65-63 with 1:42 left in regulation time.
Alyssa Gratien, the North Eastern Athletic Conference's third-best scorer, had the ball for the Mustangs with 85 seconds left in regulation time with time ticking off. Left virtually unguarded, she was able to bomb a deep three-point basket that gave Morrisville State the lead for good, 66-65.
With time running off the shot clock, Wells was forced to foul Gratien down the stretch and one of the league's top scorers buried both free throws to extend the visitors lead to 68-65 with 43 seconds left. Following a Smythe layup to set the score at 69-67, Gratien committed a poorly-timed turnover on an inbounds play to give Wells the ball with 17 seconds left on the clock down by two.
With the ball, Wells was unable to bury a long-range three and the ensuing offensive rebound was turned over. Gratien, once again, was fouled and she buried both free throws to reestablish a four-point lead. A deep three point basket by Artaho-Aki cut the score to 71-70 as time expired, but Morrisville State outscoring Wells 55-37 over the game's final 25:43 was ultimately the difference-maker.
Gratien led the Mustangs with 19 points. Jordan Anderson scored 15 points and notched a team-best seven assists while two different players racked up nine points for Morrisville State.
The reigning NEAC Champions from Wells College will hit the road to conclude the regular season of play battling for a playoff position. The Express will face-off against SUNY Cobleskill on the road this Friday, Feb. 20 at 5 p.m.