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Bantams edge women's basketball, 67-64

Allie Coppola looks for an open teammate in Bates' game against Trinity College on Jan. 16, 2015. Coppola finished with 16 points and 14 rebounds. (Phyllis Graber Jensen/Bates College)

LEWISTON, Maine -- Emily Llerena, Mackenzie Griffin and Taylor Higgins combined for 51 points on 68 percent shooting to lead Trinity College to a 67-64 victory over the Bates College women's basketball team Friday night in New England Small College Athletic Conference action.

The visiting Bantams (6-9, 1-2 NESCAC) shot 58% from the floor as a team while notching their first NESCAC win of the season. 

Sophomore Allie Coppola (Tarrytown, N.Y.) had 16 points and 14 rebounds, and sophomore Bernadette Connors (Windham, N.H.) chipped in 14 points to lead the host Bobcats (9-6, 0-2 NESCAC), who were without their leading scorer, senior Molly Brown (South Dartmouth, Mass.), for the first time this season. Brown may miss the rest of the season due to injury.

Llerena had 11 rebounds in addition to her game-high 18 points on 8-of-11 shooting. Griffin shot 7-for-10 from the floor and scored 17 points, including 12 in the second half as the Bantams overcame a 37-28 halftime deficit. Higgins added 16 points on 8-of-13 shooting, to go with a team-high four assists. The Bantams won despite committing 26 turnovers, 18 of them in the first half.

After some initial struggles to maintain possession for both teams, Bates began to hit its offensive stride in the first half, with first-year players Jackie Welch (Falmouth, Maine) and Nina Davenport (Freeport, Maine) leading the way. Welch, making her first collegiate start, scored eight points in the opening stanza while hitting 3-of-4 shots, 2-3 from behind the arc. Davenport came off the bench and made 3-of-5 shots for seven points, and all seven players who saw action for Bates scored in the half. Senior Kristin Calvo (South Deerfield, Mass.) distributed five of her game-high seven assists in the period. For Trinity, Llerena and Higgins both had 10 points in the half.

Production dropped off significantly in the second half, as the Bantams held both Welch and Davenport scoreless, and Bates' shooting dropped from 48.3% in the first half to 35.3% in the second, including 14.3% from three-point territory (2-14). Bates' main interior defensive presence, Coppola, didn't start the second half with three fouls already assessed to her, and Trinity's inside shooting rose from 52.2% in the first half (12-23) to a 63.0% in the second half (17-27).

Connors scored on consecutive possessions for Bates early in the half, keeping the lead at eight (42-34). A 3-pointer by Calvo with 15:25 made it 48-40 in Bates' favor, before Higgins wove through the lane for a layup to start a 16-6 Trinity run, which gave the Bantams their first lead since 6-4, at 56-54 with 10:09 left. Griffin knocked down a jumper and made two layups in the run. 

Fatigue may have affected both times down the stretch, with Trinity outscoring Bates 11-10 in the final 10:09 of the game. But after Bates first-year Lyse Henshaw (Brunswick, Maine) banked in a jumper in the lane to tie the game for the final time at 58-58, Griffin hit a jumper and Alexa Menard followed with a layup for a 62-58 lead with 5:48 left. Coppola's layup closed it to 62-60, Llerena scored underneath and a free throw by Menard opened up a 65-60 edge.

Coppola's nice feed to Connors for a layup closed the gap to 65-62, and Connors returned the favor with 1:30 to play, with a Coppola layup making it a one-point game at 65-64.

The teams traded turnovers before Higgins assisted Griffin on a layup with 29.6 seconds left in the game, providing the final margin. After a struggle to find an open look at a 3-pointer, Connors was blocked on a would-be game-tying three with 10 seconds to go, but the ball went out of bounds and Bates maintained possession. Trinity's lockdown defense again prevented Bates from getting a good look at a three, and the Bobcats settled for a desperation step-back three-point attempt by Welch that missed at the buzzer.

Bates hosts No. 3 nationally ranked Amherst on Saturday at 3pm. The Jeffs (14-1) suffered their first loss of the season Friday night at Tufts, 65-42. Trinity plays at Tufts Saturday at 3pm.