Northampton, Mass. - March 2, 2014 - Jaimie Bickelhaupt (Brookfield, Conn.) shared game-high honors with 14 points and added eight rebounds and was named the tournament’s Most Outstanding Player as sixth-seeded Springfield College upended top-seeded Smith College in the 2014 New England Women’s and Men’s Athletic Conference (NEWMAC) Women’s Basketball Championship game on Sunday.
The win capped off a simply remarkable turnaround for the women's basketball team, who a season ago finished last in the NEWMAC with a 4-20 record and failed to even make the conference tournament. As the sixth seed, Springfield became the lowest seeded team to ever win a NEWMAC Women's Basketball Championship.
The Pride (16-11), who defeated all three of the higher seeds - No. 1 Smith, No. 2 Wheaton and No. 3 Coast Guard, won their first NEWMAC tournament title since 2006 and earned the conference’s automatic bid into the 2014 NCAA Division III Women’s Basketball Championship tournament. The NCAA Selection Show will be streamed on NCAA.com at 2:30 p.m. on Monday.
Smith (16-11), meanwhile, awaits a potential Eastern College Athletic Conference (ECAC) Division III New England berth. The Pioneers claimed the 2012 title.
Over the course of the tournament, Bickelhaupt led all scorers with 15.7 points and seven defensive rebounds per game. Emily Gins (Fort Myers, Fla.), who averaged 10 caroms per game for the tournament, finished with 14 on the day to go along with 13 points, including 11 from the charity stripe. Ava Adamopoulos (Ludlow, Mass.) chipped in with 10 points while Danielle Racette (North Adams, Mass.) doled out a game-best four assists and led the Pride with two steals.
Rosa Drummond recorded her eighth double-double of the season with a historic 14 points to go with 11 rebounds. Paulina Solis added nine points and a game-best three swipes as Sydney Parkmond and Lauren Weston scored seven apiece.
Solis broke the ice as she sank the back end of a pair of free throws nearly two minutes into the game. Springfield then scored back-to-back buckets to take the early 4-1 lead four minutes in. Drummond evened the game with her first triple at the 13:36 mark. Weston then embarked on a personal 5-2 run to push the Pioneers lead to three twice before Springfield’s Heather Lewis (Saratoga Springs, N.Y.) canned a pair of free throws to take the 10-9 lead midway through the half.
After Parkmond drained a free throw to make it even at 10-all, Lexi Windwer (Milton, Mass.) began a Springfield 10-2 run with a three-pointer to close out the frame with a 20-12 advantage.
Springfield's defense was tremendous, as Smith shot just 3-for-27 (11.1%) in the first half. Bickelhaupt led all scorers at the half with six points. Gins had eight boards before heading to the locker room.
Smith slowly whittled away at the deficit and took its first lead, since midway through the first half, at the 12:07 mark following a tip-in by Solis to make it 25-24. The squads then traded buckets, and the lead, until Gins put the guests ahead by three (30-27) with 10:07 to go.
Smith kept the game within four until three consecutive layups by Adamopoulos pushed the Pride’s lead to 10 (41-31) with under five minutes to play. Drummond’s record-tying triple made it a six-point game with 28 ticks remaining. Ten seconds later, Jade Chihara cut the deficit to four with a layup before Gins sealed the win with four free throws in the final 14 seconds. Gins was nearly perfect from the foul line, finishing the day 11-for-12.
The Pride will now await its opponent in the NCAA tournament, announced on Monday at 2:30 p.m.