PAXTON, Mass – Saturday afternoon the AMCATS played host to the Norwich University Cadets in a pivotal Great Northeast Athletic Conference game. A win for the Cadets would have all but solidified their playoff hopes, while a win for the AMCATS would move them within two games, with four remaining, of the eighth and final GNAC playoff slot.
For the AMCATS, it was senior guard Kristina Russo (South Windsor, Conn) leading the way with a game-high 20 points. Russo also had three take away in the game. Graduate student Johanna Burke (Oxford, Mass) recorded a double-double on the afternoon with 15 points and 10 rebounds. What doesn't show on the score line are the game changing plays she made all afternoon, drawing fouls when needed and taking the ball away from the Cadets three times. Grabbing eight rebounds in the game to beat her season average, was senior guard Maritza Gustave (Fall River, Mass). Senior guard Kayla Odegaard (Milton, Mass) added nine points to the 'Cats tally along with six rebounds. Kayla was three-of-seven from three-land but the last one was the most important.
For the Cadets, senior forward Arianna Harrison (Vernon, Vt) tied the game-high score with 20 points. She also pulled down 15 rebounds to get herself a double-double on the day. Though Harrison was the only played in double-digits for the Cadets, junior guard Emily Oliver (Sagamore Hills, Ohio) scored eight for the visitors on three-of-six shooting. Junior forward Vanessa Fleury (Lebanon, N.H.) added nine rebounds in her team's effort.
Things got off to a slow start for both teams in the first quarter. The first points came at the 9:21 mark of the period by way of a three-pointer from Russo. The next points wouldn't come until two minutes later when Cadets senior guard Shyann Josler (Thetford Center, Vt.) would hit two free throws after an Odegaard foul. In the first six minutes of play the AMCATS went on a 9-4 run, all of the points coming off of threes from the aforementioned Russo and then Odegaard and sophomore guard Gina Houghton (Paxton, Mass). Over the next four minutes the Cadets would creep back within one of the AMCATS, 11-10. Norwich would then send Burke to the line where she made both freebees to give her team the 13-10 advantage at the end of the first quarter.
In the second period, the Cadets would quickly tie the game and then take a 15-13 lead after a three and a layup from Oliver all in the span of 30 seconds. All-in-all the second period belonged to Norwich as they maintained a lead, at one point by six points, the rest of the way through the half. There was no scoring from either side for the last two minutes of the half but the Cadets had outscored the AMCATS 17-11 and went in to the half-time break up 27-24.
The third quarter saw things flip back in favor of the AMCATS. They would record their best scoring period of the game in the third with 19 points. Seeing the deficit extend out to seven points, Anna Maria kicked it in to gear and got threes from Gustave, Russo and Odegaard to tie things back up at 35 apiece with six minutes left in the quarter. The 'Cats would go on to outscore their guests in the third, 19-14, to take a 43-41 lead in to the final 10 minutes.
In the final quarter is was more back and forth between the two teams and the two point lead that AMC brought with them to the fourth would prove to be a factor in the final score. The intensity from both benches increased significantly as the game had been relatively close from tip-off. With 5:21 to play in regulation the Cadets grabbed themselves a five-point advantage. Anna Maria, however, did not go away, regaining a lead on two made free throws from Burke yet again. With 50 seconds remaining, Norwich would miss the shot that would give them a two-point lead. Burke would grab the rebound and with no fouls to give, the Cadets had no choice but to send Johanna to the line to shoot two. She would miss the first of two and make the second to give the 'Cats the 55-54 lead. Norwich went back down the court and scored to take a 56-55 lead with 28 second on the clock. Only needing two-pointer to win, Anna Maria missed consecutive three –pointers from Odegaard and Gustave. The Cadets would grab the carom and the AMCATS, with no fouls to give, would send the Cadets high scorer on the day, Arianna Harrison to the line. She went on to miss the first of the free ones and then make the second to give Norwich a two-point advantage with six seconds to play. Head coach Kevin Bigelow elected to move the ball up the court during the stoppage and draw up a play on the fly. It seemed from the inbound the idea was to get the ball in the hands of Kayla Odegaard. With time expiring, Gustave handed the ball of the Odegaard, turned to set a screen to give her space, Odegaard put up a three from three feet behind the arch and nailed it with four tenths of a second left on the clock. It would prove to be the game winner as on the ensuing inbound by the Cadets, AMC would knock the ball down and the AMCATS celebrated as they walked away with the nail biting win, 58-57 over Norwich.
The next game for the AMCATS will be Tuesday night, February 6th when they play host to GNAC opponent Johnson & Wales at 6pm.
Click Here to view the full box score from today's game.