Cousens Gymnasium was electric on the afternoon of Jan. 21 as the women’s basketball team defeated conference opponent Bates College in overtime 84–75 after 11 instances of a tie score and 11 lead changes throughout the contest.
The back-and-forth battle included milestones for junior forward Maggie Russell, who scored a career high 33 points, and Bates senior guard Meghan Graff, who scored 44 points to become Bates’ all-time leading scorer.
The entire Jumbos’ starting five contributed significantly to the victory with sophomore guard Sofia Gonzalez scoring 15 points and junior guard Callie O’Brien notching 14. A clutch late-game performance from junior guard Samantha Sousa sparked the momentum Tufts needed to earn the victory in overtime, and relentless defense prevented Graff and the Bobcats from ever feeling comfortable, even when they had previously led by as many as 11 points.
Despite vocal support for Bates from the stands and a remarkable showing by Graff, Tufts remained undaunted with an unwavering commitment to each other and to winning. Sophomore guard Annika Decker commented on the team mindset essential to their success.
“We came together during our huddles and just said we were gonna win this game together,” she said. “We were coming off of a pretty bad loss, and that loss really made it obvious that we needed to work the ball around.”
The Bobcats started the game strong and controlled the energy for much of the first half, but two big offensive runs in the second quarter gave Tufts a 42–36 lead going into halftime. The Jumbos scored 7 unanswered points in the final moments of the half to take back control of the momentum, and they maintained it for the remainder of the game.
“It’s a game of runs, and we went on a run right before the end of the second,” Decker said. “The entire time in the locker room we were saying, ‘Now we have to step on it. We have to come back out with that exact energy.’”
Defense dominated the third quarter, and both squads limited the scoring, ending the third tied at 55–55.
“Everyone’s defensive responsibility was [Graff],” Decker said. “We just tried to make her as uncomfortable as possible … but we adjusted in other ways, limiting the scoring of other teammates, which I think helped.”
Though the Jumbos made eight attempts at a game-winning bucket toward the end of the fourth quarter, the shots did not fall. As the final seconds of regulation dwindled, the teams stood locked at 65–65, and an exciting overtime period began.
“[Overtime] was just such a good environment to play in,” Gonzales said. “It really proved how … we can really just close games that we deserve to win.”
Gonzales had a sensational block with 1:32 remaining in overtime to protect the Tufts lead. The moment fired up the Jumbos and allowed them to pull ahead and finish with a comfortable point differential.
“[In] that moment, the energy was there, and we’re a very energy-driven team,” Decker said. “I think that just showed how much we gave our all for that game.”
Russell’s 33 points were the icing on the cake of a thrilling contest, but the career-high performance came as no surprise to her teammates.
“I knew she was very capable of it,” Gonzales said. “I’m very proud of her, but [it was] not unexpected.”
“She does so much for this team. She does it on the offensive side, defensive side, also just being a great teammate, so for her to get her career high in that sort of game, I’m very happy for her,” Decker added. “It was such an effortless 33.”
The Jumbos look to build upon the win over the Bobcats as they travel west to take on No. 5 Smith College on Jan. 23.