NEWPORT – Leading by as much as 16, the visiting Cardinals had to work to hold off the feisty Tigers on Friday night at Wheeler Gym after Newport rallied in the second half.
Stevens built a 13-5 lead after one and stretched that to 28-16 by halftime led by 15 first-half points from junior Sydney Miller.
The Cardinals continued to roll entering the second half, as freshman Zahna Rice scored a quick eight points in the first couple minutes of the third (Rice left shortly after with a knee injury). Stevens went up 36-20 with 4:30 left, but then momentum in the gym shifted in favor of the Tigers.
After a layup from senior Megan Howard, the Tigers put on their full-court pressure and started to force Stevens into making errors.
“We had the press planned, we just didn’t know when we were going to put it on,” said Newport head coach Ross Dole. “We got into foul trouble and lost a couple key players and we had to put it on when we did.”
Newport quickly went on a 9-0 run with senior Selena Coronis heading the full-court press. And, by two minutes into the fourth quarter, the Tigers cut the lead to just two, 42-40.
“We’ve handled the press all year so it’s kind of funny it turned out that way,” said Stevens head coach Ivy Condon. “We started rushing a bit and started trying to play their tempo.”
Then, when Stevens needed offense desperately, Miller had back-to-back assists to Elle Grenier and Jenna Pond as Stevens slowly started pulling away again. A corner three from Pond with 3 minutes left put the Cardinals up 51-43.
Three fourth-quarter threes for Newport, two from Alyssa Burr and one from Greysan Beaulieau, kept things close but the Stevens did what they needed to walk away with their fourth victory of the year (second against Newport).
“It feels good to beat a Newport team, but it also just feels good to win,” said Condon. “We’ve been competitive in division two… we just haven’t finished out games.”
The Tigers fall to 5-10 and are currently holding the final spot in the D-III playoffs, and are hoping to clinch a playoff spot with two wins over their final three games.
“We had a couple shots at the end,” said coach Dole. “I think if they go in the game could have gone either way. I liked the way the girls played at the end… they fought hard. We could have given up but we never did… we were fighting injuries, foul trouble… and Stevens plays hard and physical.”
Burr led Newport with 20 points on the night, Coronis added 12, and Howard and Beaulieau each had 5.
For Stevens, Miller scored 17 and Rice added 14, while Pond chipped in with 10.
Newport will host Sunapee tonight while Stevens hosts Timberlane on Friday night.