Jennie harding and the Ephs saw their season end against DePauw.
Jennie harding and the Ephs saw their season end against DePauw. (Dennis R.J. Geppert/Special to The Eagle)

HOLLAND, Mich. -- Claire Baecher, Danny Rainer and the Wiliams College women's basketball team threw everything they had at the nation's top-ranked team, hoping to play spoiler.

Unbeaten and top-ranked DePauw refused to crack under the pressure.

DePauw led the final 12 minutes, 10 seconds to hold on for a 59-56 NCAA Division III semifinal win at Hope College on Friday.

It was the first final four appearance for the No. 16-ranked Ephs (25-7).

"I'm incredibly proud of my team," Williams coach Pat Manning said. "This is our first time on a stage like this. You never know how a team is going to respond. Our team just responded the way [it] did all year. They played for each other."

The Ephs played in front of the largest crowd of the season -- a DeVos Fieldhouse gathering of 1,243 that was heavily pulling for the Tigers, who are located about a five-hour drive away.

Baecher and Rainer -- two seniors -- led the fearless attack, Manning said.

"They never panic. They never get rattled. They play because they love to play, and it carries over," Manning said. "We haven't played in arena like this before. We haven't played in front of a crowd like this. They were amazing."

Williams held an eight-point lead on the unbeaten Tigers after Kellie Macdonald's jumper put the Ephs ahead 25-17 with 2:54 remaining in the first half.

But with Baecher, an All-American, sitting on the bench with two fouls, DePauw pounced.


Advertisement

It took an Ellen Cook 3-pointer with 27 seconds remaining to keep Williams ahead after the first half at 28-27.

The score was tied six times during the first seven minutes of the second half before DePauw (33-0) took the lead for good and marched into Saturday's title game.

"Credit to Williams' defensive ability to change our comfort on the offensive end. Their length really was a factor," DePauw coach Kris Huffman said. "I was really proud of how our team finished the first half with a run and made some runs in the second half."