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Lady Engineers Beat Mt. Holyoke, Advance to Semifinals of NEW8

By Erion Clark

Tuesday night's women's basketball game marked the first match coach Melissa Hart faced with the Engineers in the post-season, and it won't be her last. In the first round of the New England Women's Eight Conference Tournament, MIT came from a halftime deficit of 24­26 to defeat Mount Holyoke College, 70­66 as a crowd of 155 cheered them on in the Rockwell Cage.

Thirty­one seconds into play, Katie Spayde '99 connected with the Engineers' first basket. While the first ten minutes elapsed, both teams traded baskets. Earlier in the season, Mount Holyoke dropped a regular season game against the Engineers, and their spirited effort showed that they were determined not to come up short again.

MIT, however, was determined to advance further into tournament play. Vicky Canto-Ponce '00 provided MIT with solid defense as she tallied up a block with 9:46 remaining in the first half. Mount Holyoke used several multiple player substitutions in order to keep up the pressure against the home team.

Both teams stayed out of foul trouble and only ten fouls, combined, were committed in the first half. With a little less than four minutes remaining, the Lyons' pressure intensified and they took the lead. Mount Holyoke went on a 5­1 run until Lisa Hwang '99 caught a pass by Maisha Gray '99 and drilled a three­point shot with 24 seconds remaining in the half. With that, the Engineers went to the lockerroom trailing 24­26.

MIT recovers in second half

Shortly after a Mount Holyoke turnover, MIT started up the offense in grand form as Vicky Best '99 rang up a three-point bomb to start off the scoring in the second half. Mount Holyoke's back court pair of Lale Topcuoglu and Anne Osowski tried to keep pace by putting up 25 points for the Lyons. MIT received great front court play by Cristina Estrada '01 as she, with the help of a couple of assists by Gray, scored four points, gathered two rebounds, and recorded a steal in a span of 1:16. Spayde pulled down 12 rebounds (7 offensive) and Gray lead all defensive rebounders with 8.

By the fifteen-minute mark the Lyons had already committed four fouls and called two time-outs with the hopes of regaining control of the boards. But the Engineers stayed one step ahead of their opponents by shooting quite well from the field in the second half (48.1 percent) and making 80 percent of their free throws for the game.

Capitalizing on the Lyons' mistakes helped as well. Vicky Best '99 made four steals and converted those turnovers into part of her game-high 18 points. Smart MIT play helped to build a lead which went as high as 14 points. Mount Holyoke mounted a comeback at the 8 minute mark, and with 3:53 remaining the score was tied at 52.

After each team traded field goals, Estrada hit a clutch jump shot to put MIT up for good. Baskets by Spayde and Canto­Ponce inflated the lead to six with less than 1:30 to go. With under a minute remaining, MIT was helped into the double bonus as the Lyons recorded their tenth team foul. Hitting the needed free throws were MIT backcourt specialists Best and Gray.

Withstanding a late three point shot by Mount Holyoke's Topcuoglu, Gray hit three free throws in the end, to lead up to her double-double (12 points, 10 assists) and usher an end to the Lyons' season.

On Friday night the Engineers will seek to avenge a regular­season home court loss as they take on Smith College, in a NEW8 tournament semifinal match at Babson College.

The Sports Information Office contributed to the reporting in this story.