New London, Conn. - January 14, 2009 - The Springfield College women's basketball team connected on six free throws in a bizarre final five seconds to rally past Coast Guard, 47-43, in New England Women's and Men's Athletic Conference (NEWMAC) action at Merriman Gym on Wednesday evening.
Springfield, which had not led since the score was 19-17 in the first half, took the lead for the first time in the second stanza with just five seconds remaining after senior center Lauren O'Connor (Valhalla, N.Y.) hit a pair of free throws to make it a 43-42 lead. Freshman guard Kelly Murphy (Mechanicville, N.Y.), who starred in the final minute of the game, had driven to the hoop. Her missed shot was rebounded by O'Connor (it was Springfield's 31st offensive rebound of the game), who was fouled and then calmly swished both free throws without hitting iron.
What then followed was quite a bizarre sequence. Forced to drive the length of the court, Coast Guard sophomore Jennifer Tamminen was fouled by freshman forward Cherelle Allen (New Britain, Conn.) as she attempted a long two-point potential game-winning shot from the right side of the hoop just as the buzzer sounded. But at that moment, a fraction of a second later, a Coast Guard player came off the bench and ran onto the floor, colliding with Allen who was now at the free-throw line, looking in the opposite direction. After a very lengthy conference among the three officials, the Coast Guard player was charged with a double technical foul, one for leaving the bench area and the other for making contact with an opposing player. The officials then decided to put 0.4 seconds back on the clock. O'Connor was designated by her head coach, Naomi Graves, to shoot the free throws. O'Connor went to the line and again swished them all without hitting iron. That increased Springfield's lead to 47-42, still with just 0.4 seconds left on the clock. Coast Guard then tacked on one of two shots from the original foul call to make it a 47-43 final.
The Pride really struggled from the field the entire night as Springfield was just 15-for-72 (20.8%) from the field. Springfield struggled just as much from behind the arc, as it did not connect on any of its 19 three-point attempts.
Allen continued to be a standout in her first year for the Maroon and White as she posted 12 points and 15 rebounds to lead the Pride. She scored the Pride's first five points of the game. O'Connor added 11 points and 13 rebounds, including nine on the offensive end. The senior center was clutch as she went 7-for-7 from the charity stripe, including six in the final five seconds of the game. Senior forward Corey Finch (Hanover, Pa.) added 12 rebounds as well for Springfield.
Coast Guard was paced by Melissa Martinelli's 21 points and 15 rebounds. The Pride dominated the boards as it owned a 63-39 advantage, including a 31-7 edge on the offensive glass.
Springfield (7-7, 2-0 NEWMAC) led by as many as six in the first half, but Coast Guard (1-10, 1-2 NEWMAC) outscored the Pride 18-6 over the final 12 minutes of the half for a 25-19 lead at the break.
Sophomore Jessica Anderson’s 3-pointer with 8:25 left gave Coast Guard a 39-33 lead, but that was the last field goal of the game for the Bears, who still led by seven at 41-34 with 3:53 left.
Springfield managed just one field goal over the final nine minutes, a shot by Finch with 1:10 left to cut the Coast Guard lead to 42-38.
Murphy then took over with stellar play, making a pair of free throws with 43.1 seconds left. Following a Coast Guard turnover with 39 seconds left, Murphy made one of two free throws with 29.6 seconds left to pull the Pride to within one at 42-41. On that play, the Bears' Martinelli fouled out.
After a pair of missed free throws by Coast Guard with 17.4 seconds left, it was O’Connor's final offensive rebound and two subsequent free throws that gave the Pride the lead for good with five seconds left.
Springfield is now one of just two teams to remain unbeaten in NEWMAC play -- WPI at 3-0, the Pride at 2-0.
Springfield returns to action on Saturday afternoon when it travels to take on Mount Holyoke in conference action in South Hadley, Mass. Game-time is set for 2:00 pm.