Elmira College Women's Basketball Opens 2017-18 Season With 70-62 Victory Over Hilbert

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Score: Elmira College 70, Hilbert College 61
Records: Elmira (1-0), Hilbert (0-1)
Location: Speidel Gymnasium -- Elmira, N.Y.

ELMIRA, N.Y. -- 
The Elmira College women's basketball team fended off a late run by the visiting Hawks of Hilbert College to secure a 70-62 season-opening victory on Wednesday night at Speidel Gymnasium. Point guard Lindsey Heaton '19 logged a career-high 22 points and fellow junior Rachel Vespucci '19 posted a double-double with 14 points and 10 rebounds.

The Soaring Eagles never trailed the Hawks after Heaton put EC ahead, 3-2, with a 3-point field goal just 56 seconds into the first quarter. By halftime, the Purple and Gold built a double-digit lead, which stood at 31-21 at the intermission and ballooned to as many as 15 points, 43-28, in the third quarter. Hilbert came within three points early in the second quarter on a trey from Morgan McNeill, but Elmira responded with a 15-4 run that closed the half and bridged into the early moments of the third quarter.

A stingy defensive effort in the second quarter aided the run made by the Soaring Eagles. EC held Hilbert to a mere 2-for-12 (16.7 percent) showing from the field in the stanza. In addition, Hawks were unable to take advantage of their attempts from the charity stripe, going just 2-for-8 from the line in the quarter. Overall, Elmira boasted a significant advantage from the foul line, as the Soaring Eagles finished 26-of-34 (76.5 percent) versus Hilbert's mere 15-of-28 (53.6 percent) effort.

Heaton, who scored 15 of her points in the second half, opened the third with fastbreak lay-in. Emily Green '18 followed up with a second-chance layup, as the Soaring Eagles drained the first four points of the half to vault ahead 35-21.

Despite the looming deficit, the Hawks worked their way back into the contest in the fourth quarter. A 5-0 run that ended with an Emily Gawlack coast-to-coast layup whittled EC's lead down to 56-49. Heaton and Hilbert's Taylor Corts traded consecutive treys with a little over three minutes remaining in regulation to keep the difference at seven points, 59-52, four unanswered points from forward Katelyn Proy had the Hawks within five points, 61-56, with approximately one-and-a-half minutes to play.

Looking to keep precious seconds from ticking off of the clock, Hilbert began to foul the Soaring Eagles from there, but EC converted nine of its 10 free throws down the stretch ice the game. Lauren Franklin '20, who tallied 10 of her 14 points in the second half, was a perfect 4-for-4 from the line in the final minutes.

In Their Own Words…
 Head Coach Shannon Howley when asked about her team's ability to fight off a late surge by Hilbert...
"We played really well, I think, for two-and-a-half quarters. They tried to speed us up, and were really scrappy and aggressive defensively. We had a couple of mental lapses, some unforced shots. Our shot selection probably wasn't great, but overall in the end we settled down and made the plays we needed to make to finish the game out and get a win."

Coach Howley on the offense's efficiency running an up-tempo scheme…
"In transition we did a really good job. I think that we got to be a little bit more patient with our shot selection in transition, but pushing tempo, we're going to continue to do that and I thought we did a really good job."

Coach Howley on the biggest takeaways from the season-opening win as the Soaring Eagles prepare for the Max Ziel Tournament in Oswego this weekend…
"I think we kept them out of the lane better than we had previously, last year in particular. We shot the ball almost 77 percent from the free-throw line and we out-rebounded them. We just need to get our defense to play all four quarters. We're going to play a tough Keystone team to start off with, but if we play with the energy we did tonight we'll be in good shape."

News and Notes

  • Elmira improved to 1-0 after beating Hilbert in the 2017-18 season opener, while the Hawks fall to 0-1.
  • EC leads the all-time series against the Hawks, 3-1, and avenged the road loss from last year's opener.
  • The Soaring Eagles snapped a three-game losing streak in season openers with the win over Hilbert.
  • Heaton's 22 points mark a single-game career-high for the junior guard.
  • Vespucci, who was the only player in the Empire 8 Conference to average a double-double last winter, opened her junior campaign with one.
  • Franklin's 14 points are one shy of her career high.
  • Sally Hogan '19 played a career-high 21 minutes off of the bench and tied her single-game best with five points.
  • Danielle Cleary '18 tied her career high by hauling in 14 rebounds.
  • Elmira out-rebounded Hilbert by 13, 54-to-41, after being outdone 37-to-25 in last year's season-opener.

Up Next
The Soaring Eagles will head to the campus of Oswego State this weekend to participate in the Max Ziel Tournament. The Elmira women will open the two-day event on Saturday, November 17, with a neutral site bout with Keystone College at 5:30 p.m. The following afternoon EC will face the winner of Saturday's Oswego State-Medgar Evers matchup.