MIDDLEBURY, Vt. -- The Bates women's basketball team led wire to wire to defeat Middlebury 65-58 on Friday night in the NESCAC conference opener for both teams. The win snapped a five-game skid for the Bobcats (6-6, 1-0 NESCAC), while Middlebury dipped to 3-7.
Sophomore Meredith Kelly (Cohasset, Mass.) scored a game-high 18 points for the Bobcats, while junior Brianna Hawkins (South Portland, Maine) pitched in 10 points and blocked three shots and first-year Molly Brown (South Dartmouth, Mass.) added nine points. Senior Annie Burns (Topsfield, Mass.) led the Bobcats with seven assists, six rebounds and four steals, identical numbers to the ones the captain posted in Wednesday night's heartbreaking 76-75 loss at the University of New England, another game in which the team led for nearly the entire 40 minutes.
Stephany Surrette led three Panthers in double figures with 13 points, with Tracy Borsinger and Scarlett Kirk adding 12 and 10 points, respectively. Kirk led Middlebury in rebounds (9) and assists (3).
Bates led by a modest margin throughout the first half, with a 6-0 mini-surge near the end of the half expanding the lead to 10 with 51 seconds left. Kelly made a pair of layups in the final minute of the half to send Bates into intermission with a 41-31 lead. The Bobcats outscored the Panthers by a 30-12 margin in the paint in the half.
Kelly made a pair of free throws to open up the scoring in the second half, followed by a three-point play by senior captain Kelsey Flaherty (South Portland, Maine) that made it 46-31. Another four foul shots by Kelly, who shot 6-for-6 at the line, gave the Bobcats a game-high 18-point lead, at 51-33, with 16:32 left in the game.
The Panthers responded with their finest stretch of play in the game, mounting a 13-2 run that brought them back within seven, at 53-46, with 9:55 left, prompting a Bates timeout. Borsinger finished off the run with a trio of free throws and a layup, following a pair of hoops by Surrette. But it was too little, too late. Kelly ended the Bates drought with a layup on an assist by Burns, and a pair of free throws by senior captain Lauren Dobish (Chambersburg, Pa.), followed by a Hawkins layup assisted by Dobish, bulged the lead back to a more comfortable 13 points with 7:04 left. Middlebury still didn't go down without a fight, however, as Kirk and Borsinger led a final 10-2 surge that closed the gap to 63-58 with seven seconds left.
Kelly has scored 15 or more points in eight of Bates' 12 games this season; by comparison, last year the 2011 NESCAC Rookie of the Year hit the 15-point mark just three times.
Bates plays at No. 17 Williams tomorrow at 2pm.