LEWISTON, Maine -- Brianna Hawkins' putback beat the final buzzer to lift the Bates College women's basketball team to an 80-78 thriller of a victory over Wesleyan University in NESCAC play on Saturday.
Hawkins (South Portland, Maine) also blocked the would-be go-ahead shot by the Cardinals with 29 seconds left and corralled the rebound to give Bates its final possession, with the score at 78-78, the 13th tie of the back-and-forth contest. After a timeout, sophomore Molly Brown (South Dartmouth, Mass.) lofted a three-point attempt with four seconds left in the game. The ball skittered to Hawkins, who got off her short layup underneath just before the backboard lit up with red lights.
Brown scored a game-high 27 points with nine rebounds for Bates, while junior Meredith Kelly (Cohasset, Mass.) added 23 points -- career highs for both players. Kelly, who also blocked three shots and grabbed seven rebounds, made 11-of-12 free throws in the game while Brown sank all eight of her attempts, as Bates shot 30-for-34 from the line as a team (.882).
Bates (9-8, 3-3 NESCAC) won for the fourth time in the past five games. Wesleyan (8-8, 1-5 NESCAC) suffered its fourth straight loss.
Karly Finison led Wesleyan with 16 points and grabbed six rebounds off the bench. Cherkira Lashley added 13 points and a team-high seven boards, and Kendra Harris chipped in with 10 points.
Finison's jumper with four seconds to go in the first half gave Wesleyan a 41-40 lead at the break. Finison had 11 points in the period while Wesleyan outrebounded Bates 25-17. Brown came off the bench to pour in 12 points and grab five rebounds for Bates, while Kelly also proved a bane to Wesleyan with nine points and four boards.
The lead changed hands seven times and neither team led by more than four points over the final 20 minutes. Kelly and Brown both made repeated trips to the foul line, combining to make all 14 of their free throws in the period as Kelly tallied 14 points and Brown 15 -- 29 of Bates' 40 points in the period.
With under three minutes left to play, Wesleyan's Dreisen Heath rebounded a Bates miss, then made a layup and was fouled to cut Bates' lead to 75-74. Heath missed her free throw, but Lashley rebounded the miss and made the putback to give Wesleyan a 76-75 edge.
Junior Julia Rafferty's (Reading, Mass.) steal made up for a missed three by Brown, and senior Taryn O'Connell (Georgetown, Mass.) was fouled with 2:15 to go. O'Connell made both foul shots for a 77-76 Bates lead, and after a Wesleyan miss, Rafferty made 1-of-2 free throws to make it 78-76. With 1:30 to go, Wesleyan's Amber Wessells was fouled by Brown and made both of her foul shots to tie the game up again at 78-78.
Wesleyan's defense forced Bates to let the shot clock expire on its next possession, and the Cardinals called timeout with 41 seconds left. Wesleyan got a driving layup attempt out of the timeout, but Hawkins roofed the attempt with both hands, returning the ball to Bates for the final possession.
Bates plays host to Tufts on Jan. 26 at 4pm. The Cardinals will play at Connecticut College on Jan. 26.