By Jean DePlacido
---- — BEVERLY — It wouldn’t be surprising for the Endicott College and Roger Williams women’s basketball teams to see each other again in a few weeks — in the Commonwealth Coast Conference playoffs.
The two teams split during the regular season, with the Gulls winning in overtime last month and the Hawks evening the score Saturday afternoon at the Post Center, 69-59.
The game was much closer than the final score indicates. With two minutes left Endicott’s Katelyn Wright stole the ball and fed Kelsey Cuddy (13 points), who drove the lane for a layup to close her team’s deficit to three points, 62-59. But that was as close as Endicott would come as the visitors scored the final seven points. The Gulls were forced to foul and Roger Williams made the most of its opportunities from the charity stripe.
Endicott never led after the midpoint of the first half, but managed to stay within one or two possessions without allowing the visitors to build a cushion.
Kayleen Whall, the game’s high scorer with 20 points, sparked her team’s comeback and while the Gulls (15-6 overall, 10-4 CCC) were able to get within two points, they could never pull ahead to change the momentum.
“Roger Williams is a very good team; they execute incredibly well offensively,” said Gulls head coach Brittany Hutchinson. “They are well coached and play well together; they were ready for whatever we tried to do. The bottom line is they made more shots than we did — and we also missed some free throws.”
The Hawks shot 50.9 percent from the field (to Endicott’s 40.4) and dominated the boards, outrebounding the hosts 36-25. Time after time the stifling Roger Williams defense limited Endicott to just one shot, grabbed the rebound and converted at the other end. They had a 26-18 edge on defensive rebounds and 10-7 on offensive boards. The visitors also made it tough for Endicott to get in the paint.
“Defensively they really smother you,” said Hutchinson. “We had a hard time getting inside and getting to the line as much as we wanted to.”
Endicott’s last lead came midway through the opening half on a basket by Cuddy, a sophomore forward who had a fine all-around game with 13 points, a team-high eight rebounds, three assists, a block and five steals in 33 minutes.
At intermission the Gulls trailed by three, 34-31. They fought back to tie it at 36-36 early in the second half when Samantha Crough (17 points, 3 blocks) hit a jumper and Cuddy made a layup after a nifty behind the back pass by Wright. The Hawks then went on a 9-3 run and never looked back.
Roger Williams is now 17-4 overall and 12-2 in the conference, in second place behind the University of New England.