Wheaton wins own New Year's Tournament behind 68-58 victory over RPI

NORTON, MA- The Wheaton College women's basketball team defeated visiting Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute (RPI), 68-58 in the championship game of its New Year's Tournament Sunday afternoon in Emerson Gymnasium.  Winners of four straight games, the Lyons improved to 6-5, while the Engineers fell to 4-6.  In the consolation game, 3-6 Husson University knocked off 1-8 Elms College, 80-59.

Named tournament MVP, senior Andrea Bailey (Needham, MA/Needham) led the hosts with 15 points, a game-high nine assists and seven rebounds.  Classmate Jenny Champney (Bedford, MA/Bedford), who was all-tourney, had 20 points for the second time in as many days to go alongside six boards.  Sophomore Gabbie DePalo (Rumson, NJ/Rumson-Fair Haven Regional) notched a double-double with 12 points and a career-best 11 caroms, while freshman Natasha Colon Ortiz (Holyoke, MA/Holyoke) matched her with 11 boards.

For RPI, junior Allison Connor (Hudson, NY/Hudson) was named to the all-tournament team after recording a game-high 21 points and pulling down seven boards.  Graduate student Whitney Coleman (Rancho Cucamonga, CA/Etiwanda) neared a triple-double for the second time this weekend with 16 points, eight assists and seven rebounds.

Leading 8-7 with under 16 minutes to go in the first half, Wheaton scored the game's next seven points during a 32-second span for a 15-7 advantage.  A pair of Connor threes triggered a 10-2 RPI spurt to knot the score at 17 with 12:23 remaining before the Lyons answered with 12 straight points for the contest's largest lead up to that point at 29-17 with 5:15 to go.  Champney scored the first eight points of the run.  A Bailey triple made the score 34-21 with less than three minutes to play, and after the Engineers responded with seven straight, Wheaton scored the last five for a 39-28 edge.  Champney and Connor each led their respective teams with 16 first-half points.

The Lyons didn't trail in the second frame, holding a 46-38 advantage with under 12 minutes left before the visitors eventually tied the game at 52 courtesy of a Coleman conventional three-point play at 5:53.  A DePalo free throw gave Wheaton the lead for good before senior Stephanie Michals' (Fairfax, VA/Saint Stephen's & Saint Agnes School) bank shot that barely beat the shot clock, classmate Stephanie Walker's (Somers, CT/Somers) trey, DePalo's three-point play and Bailey's lay-up made it 63-52 by 2:22, as RPI came no closer than six points.

Following the consolation game, Husson sophomore Brianna Hanscom (Mattawamkeag, ME/Mattanawcook Academy) was named to the all-tournament team after tallying 12 points, while junior Noelle Lincoln (Dixmont, ME/Nokomis Regional) paced the squad with 19 points.  Sophomore Amanda Gifford (Lee, ME/Lee Academy) tallied 14 points and five assists, while senior Shelby Bradford (Lee, ME/Lee Academy) had 13 points, eight rebounds and four steals.

For Elms, sophomore Carolyn Talmadge (Wilbraham, MA/Minnechaug Regional) earned an all-tournament nod thanks to 13 points, while senior Amanda Brogna (Oxford, MA/Oxford) tallied a double-double with 15 points and 10 rebounds.  Freshman Jen Normandie (Westford, MA/Westford Academy) had 13 points.

Elms scored the game's first basket, but Husson countered with an 8-0 run, keyed by five points from Hanscom.  Brogna had the Blazers' first six points, bringing her squad within 8-6 before the Eagles scored the next 11 points by the 12:59 mark.  After trailing 20-8, Elms scored nine straight points to make it 20-17, holding Husson without a field goal for 6:39.  However, the Eagles finished the half on a 20-5 run and took a 40-22 advantage into halftime.  Elms shot 42.9 percent from the floor in the stanza but committed 24 turnovers to seven for Husson. 

The Blazers began the second period by tallying 16 of the first 23 points, making the score 47-38 on a Normandie three-pointer at 16:07, but Elms came no closer, as Husson extended its lead to as many as 22.

Wheaton is back in action on Wednesday for the second half of a home doubleheader with the men's team.  The Lyons take on Mount Holyoke College at 7:30 p.m.

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