Panther women show their grit on court

MAINE — The Middlebury College women’s basketball team won two out of three recent games to improve to 11-6 overall, 3-1 in NESCAC play. 

Their split of two weekend league games in Maine left Middlebury in second place in NESCAC, tied with Williams at 3-1 behind 3-0 Trinity. The Panthers’ upset loss on Saturday at Colby cost them a shot a first place, but they can at worst take over sole possession of second place by defeating visiting Williams at 2 p.m. this Saturday. 

This past Friday, the Panthers rode Alexa Mustafaj’s career-high 38 points past host Bowdoin, 84-68. Mustafaj hit 10 of 16 shots from the floor, including two of four three-point attempts, and set a program record by making all 16 of her free throws. The win over the 11-4 Polar Bears was the program’s first since 2000.

Bowdoin led after one period, 18-15, but Middlebury outscored the Polar Bears in each of the next three periods, including taking charge in the second quarter with a 20-10 advantage.

The Panthers opened the second quarter with an 11-2 run, capped by an Emily Downer layup. Later they pushed the lead to 35-23 with an Augusta Dixon three-point play and Mustafaj layup. 

Bowdoin pulled to within 35-28 at the half, but the Panthers held a 19-13 edge in the third quarter to take charge. As well as Mustafaj, key hoops came from Reagan McDonald, whose layup made it 49-37, and Calie Messina, whose buzzer-beating three made it 54-41 after three periods. Bowdoin came no closer than eight in the fourth. 

McDonald (14) and Dixon (13) also reached double figures for Middlebury, and Bethany Lucey contributed eight points and eight rebounds. Sydney Jones scored 28 for Bowdoin.

On Saturday, the Panthers saw a fourth-quarter rally fall short in a 63-59 loss a Colby, which improved to 6-8, 2-2 in NESCAC play. 

The Mules led by 34-19 at the half, 49-41 after three periods, and 60-52 in the late going before the Panthers rattled off seven straight points to make it 60-59, on a Brooke Collins layup. Colby hit two free throws to make it a three-point game, and a potentially tying three-pointer by the Panthers missed with seven seconds to go before a Colby free throw iced the win. 

McDonald (21 points), Mustafaj (18) and Cali Messina (10) reached double figures for Middlebury. Caroline Smith (21 points) and Lydia Mordarski (18) led Colby.

 On Tuesday, the Panthers rolled to a 40-26 halftime lead on non-league foe St. Lawrence and subdued a fourth-quarter rally by the 6-6 Saints to claim a 70-61 victory.

Mustafaj scored 22 to lead the Panthers, including three late free throws to nail down the win. Dixon tied a career high with 17 points to go along with a game-high 10 rebounds. McDonald finished with 11 points, including a trio of three-pointers, giving her 99 for her career heading into the weekend. 


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