Middlebury closed the game on a 10-4 run, breaking a 55-55 tie as the Panthers earned a 65-59 road win at Trinity (12-10, 3-7) on Saturday in the NESCAC regular-season finale. Middlebury (16-7, 6-4) caps the regular season on Tuesday with a non-conference road contest at Plattsburgh State at 7:30 p.m., before hosting a conference quarterfinal match-up next weekend as the fourth seed.
The teams were tied 2-2 early in the opening quarter, but Middlebury used a modest five-point run to grab the lead. Betsy Knox made a layup and Catherine Harrison converted a traditional three-point play with 5:22 on the clock for a 7-2 lead. The Bantams came back to forge ahead with a 12-5 spurt of their own, before a bucket by Harrison in the final minute deadlocked the teams at 14-14 after 10 minutes of play.
Trinity took its biggest lead less than a minute into the second quarter at 19-16 when Sheena Landy drained a three pointer. The Panthers went on an 11-2 burst, capped by a basket by Knox for a 27-21 edge. Rebecca Reiflor made a trey for the Bantams with 1:46 left, but Sarah Kaufman scored from in the paint, giving the Panthers a 29-24 lead at the break. Middlebury's defense was stellar late in the quarter, allowing only one field goal in the final 5:42.
In the third quarter, Middlebury maintained its five-point edge and used a strong final minute to push the difference to double digits. Holding a 42-37 advantage following a basket by Peace Kabari, Kaufman hit a three pointer with 49 seconds on the clock and Lily Kuntz made a layup in on the next possession, pushing the margin to 47-37 with one quarter to play.
The hosts started the final stanza with an 8-3 run to get the difference back to single digits (50-45). Another 8-3 spurt later knotted the game at 55-55 when Kabari made a layup in the paint with 3:33 on the remaining. Back-to-back baskets by Colleen Caveney and Knox put the Panthers back in front for good late in the quarter and the team went a perfect 6-6 from the foul line in the last 35 seconds to ice the 65-59 triumph.
Kaufman paced Middlebury with 17 points, hitting three times from behind the arc, while dishing out a game-high six assists. Harrison notched sixth double-double of the season with 14 points and 14 rebounds, while Knox shot 7-11 from the floor to net 15 points.
Kabari was the lone Bantam player to reach double figures with 21 points, shooting 7-10 from the floor and 7-7 from the charity stripe.
The Panthers shot 42.6 percent (26-61) for the game, while Trinity was limited to 37.7 percent (20-53).