Photo Gallery | Williams women top Connecticut College
WILLIAMSTOWN — It wasn't all that long ago that the Connecticut College women's basketball team was the hunter in NESCAC and not the hunted.
"It feels good because we're getting to where we want to be," Conn. College coach Brian Wilson, a Great Barrington native, said before Sunday's game with Williams. "Our goal is to get into the top four of the league consistently, and we're just about there.
"It's definitely a different pressure. I think there's an expectation. We tend to get everyone's best effort now."
With five minutes to go at Chandler Gym, the Camels looked poised to get out of town with a big victory. The Ephs had another idea. Williams outscored Conn. College 13-6 with a "best effort" over the last three minutes and the hunter caught the hunted, a team that came into the game ranked 22nd in the latest USA Today Division III poll.
Devon Caveney's 3-point basket from right in front of the Williams bench with 3:46 left to play gave the Ephs the first lead of the game.
"It was amazing, the best way to go out," said senior Oge Uwanaka, one of two Williams seniors who may have played their last games at Chandler. "I just love how the whole team came together and we weren't going to lose. That mentality really showed on every single possession we had in the last five minutes."
Uwanaka and Katie Litman both played their last regular-season home games here. Uwanaka had 11 points, six rebounds, five steals and three blocks while Litman added 10 points, had eight rebounds and five assists.
"To come out here and beat a ranked team, a really good team," said Litman. "It's the summation of an excellent career. I'm just really happy to be a part of Williams."
The Ephs were able to smile and celebrate that home finale win thanks to one of the younger players on the roster. Sophomore point guard Amanni Fernandez scored 19 of her 27 points in the second half, which helped the Ephs get in position to complete the comeback.
It was a Fernandez 3-pointer that tied the game at 49 with 6:53 left in the fourth quarter, it was the first tie score of the game. She scored six of the Ephs' final 14 points, including four straight to put the Ephs ahead for keeps.
"She's an excellent player and she can almost score at will. We did a good job making her earn most of them," said Wilson. "Then she started making big shots like really good players do."
Mairead Hynes, the reigning NESCAC rookie of the year, had 20 points to lead Conn. College (16-5, 5-3), while Payton Ouimette had 12 points and a game-high 11 rebounds.
A Willa McKinley 3-point basket tied the game at 56 with 2:46 left, and Wilson called time. But out of the time out, Fernandez drove through traffic to the basket and scored with the 30-second clock winding down. She took it to the hoop with eight seconds left on the 30-second clock, breaking the tie.
Fernandez went 4 for 4 from the line on the next two possessions, and that put Williams up 62-56. Conn. College got no closer.
"We've been down late in pretty much every NESCAC game up to this point, against Middlebury, Trinity, and two nights ago against Wesleyan," said Williams coach Pat Manning. "Everybody keeps their composure well and that's a credit to our seniors but also to Amanni, who is running the show out there. When [Amanni] doesn't panic, that keeps everybody else steady."
And the Ephs needed to be steady because it looked like this game would be over early. The Camels came out and scored the first seven points in the opening quarter. They didn't trail until the waning moments.
"We have a lot of experienced players on the team. We all play together, so I think that helps with our mental toughness," said Litman. "We just go into any close game thinking we're going to come out with a win. That really helps us power through."