HOLYOKE, MA - Senior Joy Holliday (Milford, MA/Milford) drilled a tie-breaking jumper with 1.2 seconds left, lifting the Wheelock College women's basketball team to a 2-0 New England Collegiate Conference (NECC) start with a 53-51 victory over Bay Path College on Saturday at Holyoke Community College's Bartley Center. The visitors improved to 2-4 overall, while Bay Path slipped to 0-9 during its league opener.
Sophomore Keneisha Milton (Boston, MA/Wayland) had her second straight game of at least 15 rebounds, hauling in 16 to go along with a career-high 19 points, as she shot 8-for-13 on free-throw tries. Junior Maya Spratling (Dorchester, MA/Cathedral) notched her first double-double, totaling 13 points and 10 boards to go along with five steals, while Holliday finished with nine points. Junior Kayla Drescher (Wallingford, CT/Mark T. Sheehan) collected 10 rebounds, while she and sophomore Sarah McCaffrey (East Taunton, MA/Taunton) each had three steals.
Wheelock forced the hosts into committing 27 turnovers while putting together a 47-34 rebounding advantage, including a dramatic 24-5 lead on the offensive end that led to a 25-4 margin in second-chance points. Freshman Justine Hook (Berwick, PA/Columbia-Montour Area Vocational Technical School) led Bay Path with 17 points, while sophomore Brittany Alexander (Enfield, CT/Enrico Fermi) had 14 points and eight rebounds.
With time waning in a 51-51 contest, Drescher snagged an offensive board with fewer than five seconds to go and dished off to Spratling, who found Holliday. Holliday dribbled to her right to find open space and drained her go-ahead jumper from the right side with 1.2 ticks left. Spratling intercepted the ensuing inbounds pass, sealing the victory.
The teams played through three lead changes and three ties in the opening nine-plus minutes, with Wheelock freshman Randi Davis' (Lexington, MA/Lexington) lay-up knotting the game at the 10:59 mark of the first half. Bay Path responded with a 10-0 run during a 1:58 stretch, forging ahead by a 17-7 count with 8:34 to go. Wheelock chipped away at its deficit, ultimately knotting the contest at 21 on a Milton freebie at the two-minute mark before the hosts pushed their lead back out to six, with Milton's buzzer-beating three cutting Bay Path's lead to 29-26 at the half.
A 7-0 Wheelock run early in the second half erased a four-point hole, and the Wildcats extended their advantage to seven, 39-32, on a Spratling breakaway lay-up at 12:04. Alexander capped an 11-2 run with a three at 8:18 that put the hosts ahead, 43-41, but two Drescher freebies and five straight points by Spratling gave the visitors a five-point edge. Milton hit one free throw with 2:58 remaining to make it 51-49 before Bay Path freshman Analiz Garcia (Holyoke, MA/Holyoke) knotted the game with two freebies with 49 seconds left, setting up Holliday's late heroics.
Wheelock completes its first-semester slate on Tuesday at the Massachusetts College of Liberal Arts at 7 p.m. The Trailblazers earned an automatic berth into the 2010 NCAA Tournament, winning the Massachusetts State Collegiate Athletic Conference (MASCAC) Tournament.