Panthers Knock Off Wittenberg in Season Opener

Sarah Kaufman led Middlebury with 14 points.
Sarah Kaufman led Middlebury with 14 points.

The Middlebury women's basketball team tipped off the 2016-17 season with a 62-53 triumph over Wittenberg on Saturday at the Rose City Tip-Off Classic hosted by Drew. The Panthers (1-0) will face Shenandoah in the championship game at 2:00 p.m. on Sunday.

The teams stayed close through most of the first quarter with the game tied twice in the opening five minutes. Becca Ziska sank a three-pointer to give the Tigers a 7-6 lead. The Panthers jumped in front following a bucket by Colleen Caveney with 3:57 on the clock. Middlebury led by as many as four points in the frame (13-9) on a lay-up by Catherine Harrison. Wittenberg added a free throw in in the final minute, trimming the Panther lead to 13-10.

A tip-in by Ivy Houde gave Middlebury a 15-10 on the opening possession of the second quarter. Two three-pointers by Lily Kuntz pushed the Panther advantage to 23-15, but a 10-2 run by the Tigers tied the game heading into the final minute of the frame. Vanessa Young scored with seven seconds left before the half, giving Middlebury a narrow 27-25 lead at the break.

Caveney sandwiched a pair of lay-ups around a basket and free throw by Wittenberg's Alexis Perry at the start of the third quarter, as the Panthers slowly added to their lead. Maya Davis converted twice from in the paint for Middlebury, as her back-to-back field goals pushed the lead to 35-30 with 6:28 left in the quarter. The Tigers used a 7-2 run, tying the game at 41-41, but Alex Huffman and Betsy Knox each scored later in the quarter to put the Panthers back in front (45-41).

Sarah Kaufman drained a three-pointer on the opening possession of the fourth quarter and Harrison scored on a lay-up on the next trip for a 50-41 edge. Wittenberg crept back to 52-50 with 3:26 left in the game, but Middlebury scored the next six points. A trey by Kaufman and a basket and free throw from Harrison made it a six-point game (56-50) with less than a minute to play.

Perry hit from three-point range with 30 seconds left, but the Panthers iced the victory from the foul line with Kaufman and Davis each connecting twice in the closing seconds.

Kaufman paced a balanced Middlebury attack with 14 points, while Davis finished with 10 in her collegiate debut. Harrison just missed a double-double with nine points and a game-high 10 rebounds, while Kira Waldman chipped in with nine points. Huffman dished out a game-high six assists.

Perry led the Tigers with 15 points and Hannah Weaver contributed with 11. Erin Helge added six points and six rebounds.