Middlebury outscored host Plattsburgh State by a 22-7 count during the third quarter on Tuesday evening, holding off a late Cardinal comeback attempt en route to a 59-54 victory in the regular-season finale. The Panthers (17-7) return to the court on Saturday when they host Colby in a NESCAC Quarterfinal matchup at 4:00 p.m. Middlebury's 17 victories are the most since the 2001-02 team earned 22 (22-5).
The Cardinals (10-13) raced out to an 11-2 lead in the opening 4:17 of action, capped by a three-point field goal Jax Miller. Middlebury responded with a 12-2 run of its own over the next three minutes of action, taking its first lead at 14-13 on a pair of free throws by Maya Davis with 1:03 on the first-quarter clock. A lay-up by Plattsburgh State's Moe Jones gave the hosts a one-point lead (15-14) after the initial quarter.
In the second, the Panthers scored the first five points on a pair of charity tosses from Davis and a three from Sarah Kaufman for a 19-15 edge at the 6:52 mark. Plattsburgh State finished the quarter scoring 12 of the final 16 points, grabbing a 27-23 headed into halftime.
The third quarter saw the Panthers score the first 14 points, taking a 38-27 lead with 4:19 remaining on a lay-up from Colleen Caveney. The Middlebury defense held the Cardinals scoreless for nearly six minutes until a jumper from Frannie Merkel with 4:02 left got the hosts on the board in the frame. The visitors continued to increase their lead, taking a 15-point advantage on a pair of free throws from Catherine Harrison at the 2:27 mark. Plattsburgh State scored the last four points of the quarter, cutting the deficit to 11 (45-34) with 10 minutes left.
In the final quarter, the hosts chipped away at the Panther lead, cutting it to six (47-41) on jumper from Hope Cerasuolo with 7:40 left. Middlebury pushed the advantage back to double digits (54-44) on a lay-up from Caveney at the 4:31 mark.
Plattsburgh State made a furious comeback attempt over the next few minutes, slicing the Panther edge to just three (56-53) on a shot from beyond the arc by Cerasuolo with just over two minutes left. Middlebury pushed the lead back to six via a three from the top of the arc by Lily Kuntz with 57 seconds remaining. The Panthers held the Cardinals to just a single free throw over their last four possessions en route to the five-point victory.
Davis and Caveney paced the Panthers with 12 points apiece, while Kira Waldman finished with 11 points and tied for team-high honors with eight rebounds. Caveney netted her 12 points on 6-8 shooting from the floor, while Davis was a perfect 10-10 from the free-throw line. Alex Huffman tied Waldman with eight rebounds to go along with six assists. Huffman also added three steals and blocked a pair of shots. Harrison had nine points and six rebounds, while Kuntz tacked on nine points and six rebounds.
Taylor Clare and Cerasuolo both ended the night with 11 points each, while Clare yanked down a team-high six rebounds. Merkel chipped in with eight points and five rebounds, while Miller had six assists and a pair of steals for the Cardinals.