WILLIAMSTOWN — When Trinity came into Chandler Gym Friday night, it marked the sixth time the Williams women had played a nationally ranked basketball team.
On the biggest stage of the season, the Ephs turned in their most complete performance of the season.
Arianna Gerig had 19 points and eight rebounds, scoring 13 of those points in the fourth quarter, as Williams knocked off the visiting Bantams 49-48. The win earned Williams coach Pat Manning one of those post-game water bottle celebratory showers in the locker room.
"This is the biggest win we had in years, definitely in my time, the most exciting," said Gerig, who scored 13 of her 19 points in the fourth quarter, going 8 for 10 from the line in the last 10 minutes. "I know you commented on her wet clothes. We sprayed her. The energy in the locker room, my god, it was great."
Trinity came up from Hartford with a pair of national rankings in its bag. The Bantams are the No. 9 team in the WBCA coaches Top 25, and are 11th in the D3hoops.com national Top 25.
"It was such great win," Manning said. "Everybody did their jobs. It's just such a huge win."
Williams has had one of the nation's most difficult schedules this year. The Trinity game marked the sixth time Williams had faced a team in a Top 25, and the win gave the Ephs a 2-4 record against those teams. But two of those games, a loss to then No. 17 Babson and a loss to then 10th-ranked Amherst were both by three points. One other Top 25 loss, to then 10th-ranked Smith, was a seven-point decision.
Williams fell behind 16-4 after one quarter, and it appeared as if it was going to be a long night for Manning and her team. Williams did rebound to outscore Trinity 20-13 in the second and third quarters combined, and then hung on in the fourth quarter by scoring 25 points to 19 for the Bantams.
Trinity had a last chance to tie the game. The Bantams' Emma Wax, a transfer from Division I Marist, hit a 3-pointer with 13 seconds left to cut a six-point Williams lead to 49-46. Gerig was fouled with six seconds left, but the sophomore from Westport, Conn., picked a tough time to miss two free throws.
Reilly Campbell, a transfer from D-I Lafayette, pulled down the last of her game-high 13 rebounds and got the ball ahead to Theresa Twardosky. Twardosky launched a 3-point shot that missed. Campbell got the rebound and scored a two-pointer at the horn, accounting for the final score.
"Trinity's a good team, as everyone knows. They're a very talented team," said Manning. "We had been so close so many times to ranked teams, and my players deserve all the credit. They stuck with it and stuck with it, and nobody panicked when things weren't going our way. I'm just so proud of them and their effort."
It wasn't an easy win for Williams, who was as cold from the floor as it was outside. The Ephs managed to make only 9-of-42 shots from the floor and 4 for 29 from inside the arc. The good news for the Ephs is that they went to the basket early and often, forcing Trinity to foul. The Ephs fouled out Trinity starter Bria Fuller, and the home side ended up making 26 of 37 free throws. Until she missed those last two, Gerig had been 9 for 10. Devin Biesbrock, who scored 14 points, was 8 for 8 from the line.
The Bantams went up 10-0 and Williams didn't score until Mia Holtze got inside for a hoop. Trinity led by as many as 14 in the second quarter before Williams cut the lead to 21-14 at halftime. Logan Coster's two free throws with 1:16 left in the half accounted for the score.
A 3-pointer by Holtze with 6:55 left in the third quarter were the first points scored by either team. Trinity couldn't pull away and Williams couldn't catch up as it was 29-24 after three quarters.
Williams scored the first four points of the quarter, cutting the lead to 29-28 on a trey by Biesbrock. The Bantams took that body blow and restored the lead to six points after Williams' Cortland McBarron missed a layup, Campbell rebounded and Madison Stevens scored to make it 34-28 with 7:22 left.
That was plenty of time for Williams, who proceeded to go on an 8-0 run. And when Gerig scored in the paint with 6:02 left, the Ephs went up 36-34, and never trailed again.
"We came out knowing they were first in the NESCAC and we played a little bit scared at the beginning. Getting that quarter out there, we knew we could play with them," said Gerig. "Now it's time to play our game, play great defense which we pride ourselves in, just disrupt the ball and create chaos."
Chaos is what could impact the NESCAC standings if Williams beats Wesleyan Saturday afternoon at home. Trinity heads to Middlebury and Tufts goes to Bowdoin. The Ephs are 6-2 in conference play, with Trinity and Tufts both 6-1, and leading the conference.
"We're not even thinking about [NESCAC standings]. All we're thinking about is Wesleyan" on Saturday, Manning said. "I think that's the maturity of my team too. We know there are two games. You can't get too high or too low Friday. We just have to get back to work and go [Saturday] against Wesleyan."