Senior tri-captain Hannah Foley connected on a 3-pointer with one-and-a-half minutes elapsed in No. 4 Tufts’ final non-league game of the season, against Rhode Island College (RIC), Tuesday night, leaving her just three points shy of the 1,000-point mark as a Jumbo. Fans and teammates awaiting a chance for celebration, Foley continued battling for rebounds and hustling up and down the floor looking for the basket that would make her just the 12th women’s basketball player in the program’s history to reach the 1,000-point milestone.
At the 13:59 mark, however, Foley was subbed off, still sitting on 997. The Jumbos had built a commanding 12-3 lead, stymying the Anchorwomen’s offense, but Foley hadn’t gotten a look at the basket since her first triple.
All in due time.
Foley reentered the game with just over 10 minutes remaining in the first stanza and got open on the Jumbos’ ensuing position. With the shot clock winding down, she collected a pass in the corner and pulled up from beyond the arc, swishing the shot to give the Jumbos their first double-digit lead of the game and make her the second Tufts player this season to reach 1,000 career points.
“It’s definitely exciting for me, but I would say it’s nowhere near as exciting as the Final Four was last year,” Foley said, comparing this moment with the other great achievements she and her teammates have accomplished over the past few years. “I mean it’s a nice individual award, but I think that team successes are so much more fun, you can share with everyone else. I think the Final Four definitely is way higher on my list of exciting things, but it is an awesome accomplishment.”
Undoubtedly, the Jumbos have their sights set on another deep run in the NCAA tournament this season, and this sort of selflessness is indicative of that drive for team victories. But with both Foley and fellow classmate and tri-captain Hayley Kanner reaching 1,000 points just 17 days apart, Foley, her teammates and her coaches are excited about the triumphs they’ve helped each other reach along the way.
“I mean both of them have been huge contributors from when they stepped on campus,” coach Carla Berube said of Foley and Kanner. “And they’ve had a really good point guard along the way that has helped out on those points. It’s hard not to think of [senior tri-captain] Kelsey [Morehead] and what she has brought to this program and to get them as many points as they’ve had. So it’s pretty awesome to have two players in the same class… reach that milestone.”
Though Morehead is still sidelined with a nagging knee injury, hoping to return prior to the postseason, the Jumbos have been rolling lately and look primed to close out the season strong. The result they achieved Tuesday night, a 66-40 victory over RIC, did not come unchallenged, but Tufts has proved time and again that it can deal with adversity.
The Anchorwomen gained some ground in the later minutes of the first half, going on a 6-3 run between the seven-minute and four-minute marks to cut the lead to just 10. Tufts was able to push the lead back to 15 by half-time, with help from junior Emma Roberson’s five points in back-to-back possessions and a jumper from junior Maura Folliard. While Tufts maintained a double-digit for the rest of regulation, tight pressure from the RIC defense and foul trouble for the Jumbos helped the Anchorwomen stick around.
“You’re playing against a lot of guards out there, and guards that are aggressive and really get after it defensively. So it kind of took us out of what we normally do offensively, and then it’s harder to defend,” Berube said. “It’s harder for our post players to defend five or six 3-point shooters that can drive and make plays. We need to be able to defend without fouling and keeping our hands off of them. I’ve never seen so many hand checks on us. Credit to Rhode Island College for really getting after us and making us a play a different style than we are used to.”
The Jumbos were able to outlast the pressure and make adjustments to continually push the lead, however. With just over four minutes left in the game, a shot from junior Nicole Brooks extended the lead to 30 for Tufts.
The game ended with a 21-13 fouls advantage for RIC, but the Jumbos outplayed the Anchorwomen elsewhere. The home team finished with a 47-25 advantage in rebounds and a 21-8 advantage in assists.
Sophomore Michela North, averaging 13.6 points per game, led the Jumbos with a game-high 17 points, while Foley led the Jumbos in rebounds with eight and totaled 11 points on the night. Kanner added a team-high five assists and Roberson scored nine points shooting 4-4 from the field.
The Anchorwomen were led by 10 points apiece from junior Devin Hill and sophomore Alex Moore. Junior Michelle Lagrotteria finished with a stat line of nine points, eight rebounds, two assists and two steals.
Having concluded non-conference play on a high note, Tufts now closes out the regular season with four NESCAC contests. This weekend, Tufts will travel to Hamilton on Friday night and Williams on Saturday, and the following weekend the team will be home against Colby and then Bowdoin. Closing out the season with four wins will be crucial for the Jumbos as they try to earn the top seed in the NESCAC tournament and, ultimately, to repeat as champions.
“I mean we have four huge games, especially this weekend; it’s a really big road trip,” Foley said. “We have to go to Hamilton, a really long car ride, and then get right off the bus and play, and then we go to Williams, so it’s a really big weekend. And then obviously finishing with Colby and Bowdoin, who are two really strong teams. But luckily, with no more non-conference games we’ll have plenty of time to practice and get really prepared, so we’ll feel really confident going into those NESCAC games.”
Fittingly, the Jumbos’ last contest of the regular season will come against the Bowdoin Polar Bears, with whom they currently sit tied for first place in the conference. The teams’ first meeting of the season may provide a glimpse into what this year’s conference championship will hold.