By Skidmore Athletics The Skidmore College women's basketball team secured the program's first ever Liberty League Championship on Saturday afternoon in Canton, N.Y., with a hard fought 67-62 double overtime win over top-seeded St. Lawrence.
“The amazing journey continues for us,” said Skidmore College head coach Darren Bennett. "I'm so happy for our entire team and program. We were the absolute picture of resilience today. Coming back from a double-digit second-half deficit and pushing through two overtimes was awesome.”
Senior guard Molly McLaughlin was named the tournament's Most Outstanding Player, after tallying a game-high 21 points. The Saints were led by Allison Cady's 18 points and 10 rebounds.
“Molly McLaughlin was something else on both ends of the floor,” Bennett added. “Fifty minutes, not a minute of rest, and she was able to make great decisions for our team and hit huge free throws down the stretch.”
Skidmore heads to the NCAA Tournament after earning the automatic bid with a 17-10 overall record. Kelly Donnelly ’18 (14 points, 13 rebounds) and Angela Botiba ’15 (13 points, 16 rebounds) added double-doubles to land All-Tournament Team honors. Meanwhile, St. Lawrence finished the year at 20-7 Saturday's loss continues a league nine-year streak in which the No. 1 seed in the conference tournament has failed to win the automatic bid.
Skidmore finished the game with a 61-54 rebounding advantage, and shot 17 more free throws than St. Lawrence, which settled for perimeter jumpers throughout the game. The Thoroughbreds managed to earn the win despite a 1-for-19 mark from behind the arc, as the Saints weren’t much better at 6-of-34.
The Saints put together a 10-point run to snag the early lead, as the team had eight different players chip in on the offensive end in the half. Kara McDuffee and Cady led the way with a combined 14 points, and Samantha Godfrey hit a key three and Olivia Mathieu scored on a contested layup to keep the home team on top. Despite Skidmore struggling to score with an 8-of-34 mark from the floor, the Saints missed a few opportunities to stretch the lead, taking a 29-19 lead into the break.
Kaelyn Kohlasch hit a three early in the second half, giving St. Lawrence a 13-point lead, but Skidmore refused to cave, with McLaughlin hitting several jumpers from the elbow while continuing to involve Botiba in the post. The Saints held the lead throughout the entire second half, until back-to-back jumpers by Donnelly and Amber Holgate ’16 tied it at 46-46, with 1:51 to play. Skidmore had the best chance to win the game in regulation, but McLaughlin's last-second three hit iron and sent the game to overtime.
The Thoroughbreds never trailed in the first overtime, but never lead by more than two. McDuffee's layup with 41 seconds left tied it at 52-52, answering a bucket by Botiba. After Holgate missed for Skidmore, Kohlasch had two open looks from three to win it, including one at the buzzer, but failed to convert.
Skidmore finally built some separation in the second overtime, using a 7-0 run capped by a McLaughlin layup to take a 59-54 lead with 2:03 left. Cady answered right away with an and-one, keeping the lead at 59-57, but that would be the last field goal by the Saints. McLaughlin converted free throws down the stretch, leading the Thoroughbreds to the program's first Liberty League title.
“Amber Holgate came off the bench with a huge and-one to give us the overtime lead [and] was incredible,” Bennett added. "Botiba inside, Donnelly with her ability to get to the rim and hit the mid-range shot, everything just clicked for us today. It was a lot of fun to be a part of it all.”
Cady and McDuffee both posted double-doubles, earning All-Tournament honors. Cady finished with 18 points and 10 boards, while McDuffee compiled 10 points and 14 rebounds.
“Our goal was to minimize their 3-point shooting, keep them off the free throw line, and, lastly, keep them off the offensive rebounds,” Bennett said. "We did those things, and were able to hold off an incredibly talented and well coached team. I've got so much respect for Dan and his team. His two seniors, Kara McDuffee and Allison Cady, are great leaders and class acts. We are enjoying this experience and look forward to continuing our journey into our first ever NCAA tournament.”
Skidmore, which knocked off St. Lawrence for the third time this season, will play St. John Fisher College at Tufts University on Friday, March 6.