The Middlebury women’s basketball team started its season by winning the Rose City Tip-Off Tournament hosted by Drew in Baldwin Gymnasium. The Panthers opened with a 62-53 win over Wittenberg on Saturday evening. In Sunday’s championship, Middlebury shot 8-19 (.421) from behind the arc on its way to a 74-39 thumping of Shenandoah to capture the title. Junior Sarah Kaufman (Boulder, Colo.) was selected as the tournament’s Most Valuable Player, while sophomore Catherine Harrison (Duxbury, Mass.) also earned a spot on the all-tournament team.
On Saturday against Wittenberg, 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 sophomore Colleen Caveney (Andover, Mass.) with 3:57 on the clock. Middlebury led by as many as four points in the frame (13-9) on a lay-up by Harrison. Wittenberg added a free throw in in the final minute, trimming the Panther lead to 13-10.
A tip-in by sophomore Ivy Houde (Rixeyville, Va.) gave Middlebury a 15-10 on the opening possession of the second quarter. Two three-pointers by rookie Lily Kuntz (Villanova, Pa.) 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. Rookie Vanessa Young (Wardsboro, Vt.) 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. Rookie Maya Davis (Milton, Mass.) 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 sophomore Alex Huffman (Lynn, Mass.) and rookie Betsy Knox (Bethesda, Md.) each scored later in the quarter to put the Panthers back in front (45-41).
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 rookie Kira Waldman (San Francisco, Calif.) 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.
In Sunday’s championship against Shenandoah, Middlebury came out strong, jumping out to a 14-2 lead in the game's first 4:43 of play. Harrison scored eight points on 4-4 shooting during the run.
Leading 17-7 after one quarter, the Panthers went on a 14-2 run early in the second, sparked by a three from Kaufman as the margin extended to 33-11.
Middlebury took a 37-15 lead into the break before opening the second half with threes from Caveney and two from Kaufman, as the advantage ballooned to 43-15 at the 7:53 mark.
The lead hovered around 30 for the remainder of the quarter as the Panthers slowly extended their advantage in a 17-12 fourth quarter.
Kaufman finished with 15 points on 6-9 shooting, to go along with five assists. Harrison ended her game with 10 points on 5-7 shooting in the title game. Caveney finished with 11 points, while Huffman grabbed seven boards and had three steals. Junior Rachel Collins (Bedford, N.H.) and Knox each scored 10 points off the bench, while Kuntz grabbed seven boards for the Panthers.
Kirstyn Arcata led Shenandoah with nine points, while Erin French and Mary Severin each added six.
Middlebury shot 52.7 percent from the floor and held a huge 40-14 rebounding advantage.
• Women’s basketball record: 2-0
• Up Next: 11/22 vs. Johnson State – 7:30 p.m.