Mitchell Sinks Lesley in Final Seconds
NEW LONDON, Conn. – Mitchell College sophomore Kaylee Cerruto sank the winning basket with 5.4 seconds to play in a 66-64 victory over Lesley University on Tuesday night at the Yarnall Athletic Center.
Lesley trailed 64-56 with 1:17 remaining but had rallied back with eight unanswered points to tie the game on a pair of free throws by Kaitlyn Wechsler with 18 ticks left on the clock. Mitchell put the ball in Cerruto's hands for its final possession, and she drove baseline before dropping in a floater for her team-high 20th point of the night.
The Lynx still had one last chance to either tie or win the game. Emily Fleming took the inbounds pass and raced up court, threading a pass to Wechsler near the basket for a good look at the tying hoop. Wechsler rushed her attempt to beat the buzzer, and the effort was too strong and fell off the mark.
Cerruto netted 18 of her 20 points in the second half as the Mariners (12-7 overall, 9-3 NECC) came away with a critical conference win. The Lynx (11-9 overall, 10-2 NECC) remain in second place in the NECC standings but now lead Mitchell by only a game. The top two teams at the end of the regular season earn byes for the first round of the NECC Championship.
Wechsler finished with 19 points while Rachael O'Mara led all scorers with 23 points. Fleming dished out nine assists while Cassidy Freed notched a double-double with 10 points and 10 rebounds.
The first half featured seven ties and six lead changes while neither team led by more than six points. Lesley took advantage when Mitchell's leading scorer, senior Alix O'Neil, picked up her second foul just seven minutes into the contest and went to the bench. The Lynx took their biggest lead of the half without O'Neil on the floor, pulling ahead 25-19 with 3:46 to go.
O'Neil came back in for the final 3:46 of the half and Mitchell quickly closed the gap, scoring eight of the final 10 points of the stanza to tie the game at 27-27 at intermission. Senior Allison Peck kept the Mariners in the game with 13 points in the half while Wechsler led Lesley with 11.
The Lynx scored seven of the first nine points in the second half to take an early lead and extended the margin to as many as seven. The Mariners responded quickly, rattling off 10 straight points to grab the lead for good. Cerruto and Peck each drilled a three-pointer during the stretch, as the two combined for seven of Mitchell's eight treys in the contest.
Mitchell led by as many as nine points but couldn't close the door. The Mariners held a 64-56 lead with 1:17 remaining before the Lynx clawed back into the game. Wechsler got things rolling with a layup, and O'Mara followed on the next possession with a three-point play to cut the deficit to three. A Mitchell player was then whistled for a technical foul, and O'Mara made one of two from the line to make it 64-62.
Cerruto went to the charity stripe with a chance to make it a two-possession game but missed the front end of a one-and-one. Wechsler corralled the rebound and, after a Lesley timeout, drew a foul with 18 seconds to play. She calmly sank both attempts to tie the game at 64-64 and set the stage for the exciting finish.
Lesley shot 47 percent from the field and held a 41-30 advantage on the glass. Mitchell shot 38 percent for the game but went 8-for-14 from long range. Peck finished with 16 points while O'Neil added 15 points and six rebounds. The Mariners were outscored 36-12 in the paint but made up the difference by forcing 22 turnovers and held a 17-6 edge in points off miscues.
Mitchell will next host Elms College on Thursday, February 10 at 7 p.m. Prior to the game, the Mariners will hold a special ceremony to honor their five seniors.