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Women's hoops nearly upsets Castleton behind Connors, Coppola

Bernadette Connors made the all-tournament team at the Rutland Herald Tipoff Tournament after totaling 16 points and 12 rebounds against the host Spartans on Nov. 16, 2014 in Castleton, Vt. (File photo by Phyllis Graber Jensen/Bates College)

CASTLETON, Vt. -- Castleton saw its double-digit lead evaporate in the second half but never lost the lead and got a game-saving block from Meghan O'Sullivan in the last second to secure a 58-55 win over the Bates women's basketball team in the last game of the Rutland Herald Tip-Off Classic on Sunday afternoon. 

Sophomore forward Bernadette Connors (Windham, N.H.) led the Bobcats with a career-high 16 points on 6-for-9 shooting with four 3-pointers. She also added a career-high 12 rebounds in earning a spot on the all-tournament team. 

Sophomore Allie Coppola (Tarrytown, N.Y.) added 11 points, 10 rebounds, four assists and three steals. Senior Molly Brown (South Dartmouth, Mass.) was in double figures with 15 points on 3-for-18 shooting from the floor.

The Bobcats trailed 58-55 with just nine seconds left as Bryanna DuPont stepped to the line for the first shot of a one-and-one. She missed the free throw and Bates raced the ball up the court. The team swung it around the perimeter looking for an open shot before senior Kristin Calvo (South Deerfield, Mass.) was forced to hoist a three from the top of the arc with time running out. O'Sullivan read the play and leapt at the attempt, getting a few fingers on the ball as it fell short of the basket.

The Spartans held the Bobcats to just 28.1 percent shooting for the game and without a field goal over the final 5:10. Castleton finished at just 39.0 percent shooting for the game after making 5 of 25 attempts in the second half. The Spartans did outrebound Bates 48-41 as they improved to 2-0 with the win. The Bobcats dropped to 1-1 as they forced 15 Castleton turnovers which turned into 14 points. 

Tournament MVP Jade Desroches led the offense with 17 points and seven rebounds but went 7-for-20 from the floor. O'Sullivan was picked to the All-Tournament team after putting up 12 points, six rebounds, two assists and two blocks. DuPont was solid with 10 rebounds, three assists, two points and zero turnovers in 30 minutes. 

Castleton jumped out to a 9-3 lead on a trio of triples, including two from Lindsay Sabo, in the opening 92 seconds. The team extended its lead to 19-9 on a triple from Desroches with 13:13 left in the half. A personal 6-2 run by O'Sullivan made it 25-14 minutes later and Makayla Farrara extended it to 29-19 at 7:42 with a three. Bates responded with a 7-4 run to cut the lead to 33-26 with 3:27 left in the half, however, the Spartans outscored the Bobcats 10-2 over the final three minutes to go up 43-28 at the break. 

The second half was a different story as a 9-4 run made it a ten-point game less three minutes into the period. At 10:44 junior Chelsea Nason (Boxford, Mass.) trimmed the deficit to 49-42 on a triple and four minutes later Connors hit another shot from beyond the arc to make it just 54-49. Desroches was fouled and made one of two free throws on Castleton's ensuing possession, but back-to-back jumpers by Brown and Calvo put Bates back just 55-53 with 5:10 remaining.

Brown eventually tied the game at 55 apiece on two free throws, but Desroches came back with a layup for a two-point lead with just 2:59 left. The Bobcats missed their next three shots and Desroches went 1-for-2 from the line at 1:38 for the 58-55 advantage. Bates' best chance to tie it up came as Brown launched a pair of threes with 21 and 12 seconds left. Neither fell, and DuPont eventually secured the rebound and was fouled to set up the final sequence. 

Castleton (2-0), which advanced to the Sweet 16 last season, outrebounded Bates (1-1) 48-41 and outscored the Bobcats 27-10 in the paint.

Bates next plays at Husson on Tuesday at 7pm.