By Matt Noonan
BABSON PARK, MA – With the opportunity to not only earn their third NEWMAC Championship in three seasons, but also, punch their ticket to the NCAA Division III Women’s basketball tournament, Babson College built an early lead and never looked back, as they defeated Smith College on Sunday, 74-49.
“It’s great,” Babson College head coach Judy Blinstrub said after her team’s victory. “The kids deserve it. They had a great year and really stayed focus until the last game of the season.”
Babson appeared determined prior to the opening tipoff that they indeed were going to walk out of Staake Gymnasium with not only an undefeated record [27-0], but also, yet another NEWMAC trophy. The Beavers have turned into the NEWMAC’s most recent women’s basketball dynasty and clearly have become an opponent that is well respected, but tough to beat.
“Babson’s a lot to handle,” said Smith College head coach Lynn Hersey. “They played really well. [They] executed, had a little bit different game plan and fortunately we weren’t able to make enough adjustments and credit goes to them, they’re one of the best teams in the country right now, playing well even without [Sarah] Collins, so we wish them best of luck down the stretch.”
The first half began with Babson jumping out to an early 4-0 lead while Smith College responded with absolutely nothing. The Pioneers turned the ball over constantly and allowed the Beavers an opportunity to hang onto the lead for not only the entire first 20-minutes, but also, the game.
In fact, the Pioneers finished the championship contest with 30-turnovers compared to the Beavers who lost the ball 17 times.
Babson attacked Smith College’s defense by forcing the ball inside the paint, which really seemed to be a problem for the Pioneers, as they couldn’t defend an offense that moved the ball incredibly well, but also, knew when to shoot.
“We just started to go inside, they kept doing a really good job defensively triple teaming, so we just started to reverse the ball. [Also] different kids stepped up to give us avid points as the game went on and everybody contributed,” said Blinstrub.
Babson’s Kathleen King led the squad with 23-points and clearly took charge at scoring whenever it was possible. King’s 6-foot frame helped her not only pave a way to the basket, but also, control the rebound battle.
Besides King, the Beavers also utilized another key component to their offense, Nicole Wurdeman, who put on quite a shooting display with two back-to-back three pointers during the closing minutes of the first half.
“They’re both great players,” said Blinstrub. “They just know that we rely on them a lot and they came through big today.”
Both King and Wurdeman didn’t go unnoticed, as the two combined for 44-points, 12-rebounds and three assists.
As the second half began, Babson tallied eight quick points and took advantage of Smith College’s mistakes, which continued to occur. The Pioneers not only turned the ball over on offense, but also, seemed unable to defend King or Wurdeman, as well as Damisi Adewumi and Amanda Grammel, who took advantage of utilizing their size, speed and quickness to score easy points in the paint.
Smith College did at times put together short runs where they would score points, but the second half completely belonged to Babson, who not only scored, but appeared ready for a deep NCAA March Madness run.
“We’re just glad to get in the NCAA’s,” said Blinstrub. “We’ll enjoy today and take the next game as it comes.”
When the buzzer sounded, Babson’s benched rushed the floor to celebrate, which forced the Smith College players to watch the celebration and excitement.
“I’m very proud of our team. Without a doubt this is a great run for us, we’re very young. It’s the first time that Smith has been to the NEWMAC Championship since 1998 and I think we are an up and coming team,” said Hersey. “Its great experience for us down the road.”
Babson College will wait for the NCAA Division III tournament bracket, which will be announced on Monday February 28, 2011 at 3pm eastern.