Skip to Content, Navigation, or Footer.
The Tufts Daily
Where you read it first | Saturday, April 20, 2024

Bowdoin eliminates women’s basketball in first round of NESCAC Tournament

The Jumbos’ disappointing season came to an end at the hands of the Polar Bears.

Annie Aspesi 4.jpg

Annie Aspesi is pictured in the Jan. 13 game against Hamilton.

On Feb. 3, the Jumbos women’s basketball team welcomed the Bowdoin Polar Bears to Cousens Gymnasium on Senior Day. Though the Polar Bears emerged victorious with a final score of 77–63, the Jumbos showed that they could compete with the NESCAC’s top dog.

Exactly two weeks later, the No. 8-seeded Jumbos had a chance to prove that claim. They traveled to Brunswick, Maine to take on the top-seeded Polar Bears in the first round of the NESCAC tournament in a bid to repeat as conference champions.

“The only thing that mattered was how the result of Saturday was going to go,” sophomore guard Annie Aspesi said. “We all believed in [our] team and we believed we could get the job done, and we really think we had a good week of practice leading up to it, really focusing in on all their plays and learning from our game two weeks ago.”

From the jump, the Polar Bears took control. Though the game was knotted at 4–4 90 seconds in, the Polar Bears went on a 14–0 run, sparked by a layup from senior forward Jess Giorgio and capped off with two free throws from sophomore guard Carly Davey.

The Jumbos were only able to cut the Polar Bears’ advantage down to 10 points, as senior forward Maggie Russell laid it in with five seconds remaining in the period. The game entered the second quarter with the Polar Bears leading 27–17. Russell led the Jumbos with 11 points in the period, with guard Sydney Jones matching her total for the Polar Bears.

Junior guard Sofia Gonzalez drained a triple four seconds into the second quarter to cut the Polar Bears’ advantage to single digits. Nonetheless, a three-pointer from guard Megan Tan restored the 10-point gap. From there, the Polar Bears continued to find the hoop. With 30 seconds remaining in the half, Tan made a free throw that extended Bowdoin’s lead to a whopping 19 points. Senior guard Callie O’Brien put the Jumbos on her back, depositing 9 points in the quarter. Tan matched her tally, with Jones also contributing 5 points.

At halftime, the Polar Bears led 48–31. Though the Jumbos’ fortunes looked bleak, they understood that nothing was impossible.

“We’re really just thinking that 20 minutes of basketball is still a lot of time,” Aspesi said. “We all came together and we still were being super positive to each other, just trying to focus in on stopping them.”

However, the floodgates showed no signs of closing as the third quarter progressed. Jones stayed hot, scoring 9 points. Sophomore guard Maria Belardi contributed 6 points to go along with senior guard Jai Duval’s 5. By the quarter’s end, the Polar Bears had all but finished the job, leading by an incredible 31 points, 72–41.

Despite the daunting gap, the Jumbos never gave up. They outscored the Polar Bears 19–6 in the final quarter, spearheaded by 8 points, including two threes from first-year guard Stella Galanes. Sophomore guard Sophia Davis racked up five boards in the quarter, with Aspesi dropping 3 points. 

In the end, though, the Polar Bears advanced to the NESCAC quarterfinals, finishing off with a convincing 78–60 victory. Jones led all scorers with 25 points and 10 rebounds, with Tan joining her in double digits at 11 points. Russell, O’Brien and Galanes posted 17, 12 and 10 points for the Jumbos.

The disappointing loss represents the end of the season for the Jumbos, as they are unlikely to be selected for the NCAA tournament. It also means — barring the eligibility of fifth years — the end of the collegiate careers of their five seniors, Russell, O’Brien, guard Samantha Sousa, forward Mallory Folliard and guard Hannah Kelly. The graduating class was immensely successful during their time in brown and blue, making the NCAA Sweet Sixteen in 2022 and the NCAA Elite Eight in 2023 (no tournament was held in 2021). They also claimed the NESCAC crown in 2023. Russell rewrote the team’s record books, as her 460 points this year took her to 1,460 total and catapulted her to second all-time on the Jumbos, behind Michela North’s 1,568. Russell’s 729 career rebounds also place her fourth in the Jumbos’ all-time charts.

“They’ve just meant so much to our program. … They did a great job of making the team feel like family and welcoming us into the program, teaching us the standards,” Aspesi said. “It was definitely sentimental seeing them come off the court at the end of the Bowdoin game. Just the legacy that they have on the program is great, and just how much we’ll miss all of them next year.”

The seniors will leave a gaping void, but the team’s returning stars, such as Aspesi, Gonzalez, Galanes and junior guard Annika Decker, ensure that the program will remain in safe hands.

“I think as a whole just being confident with the group that we have. … There have been some really great things that we’re doing and so I think I’m just looking forward to, in the spring, people playing pick-up and having fun and then in the fall, playing together and getting a new group of incoming [first-years], too,” Aspesi said.

Despite the disappointing season, the Jumbos know that their time will come again. Winter, spring and summer will pass, and fall will return. And, once it does, the Jumbos will be ready for the moment, as the eyes of the NESCAC will be on Cousens to watch them play the game they love.