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Basketball Defeats Wheaton

Women’s Team Impressive on Senior Night, in Postseason Hunt

By Erion J. Clark

BASKETBALL ANNOUNCER

The Engineers showed the Wheaton Lyons no love on the eve of St. Valentine’s Day, winning by a score of 72-53.

The game featured a tribute to the senior captains of the women’s basketball team, as Cristina Estrada ’01 and Eboney Smith ’01 received two standing ovations.

The game started with Wheaton giving the hosts all that they could handle. In the first seven minutes, the lead changed four times and no team held more than a five point advantage. Trouble, in the form of Wheaton’s Amanda Dow-Allen, popped up as Dow-Allen hit three consecutive three-pointers in a two minute span. Estrada’s free throws were the only thing that broke the Lyons’ rhythm.

Wheaton seniors Wendy Allegrone and Bonnie Campbell were determined not to be upstaged by the host seniors, as Allegrone produced the majority of her assists in the first half. All of Campbell’s rebounds came on the defensive end, limiting the second-chance opportunities for MIT. The Lyons’ only fault in their first half play was that they committed too many fouls.

MIT shot 11 free throws in the first 20 minutes, missing only one. In fact, MIT’s 10 baskets from the line equaled the number of their field goals made in the half. MIT had tallied 30 points at halftime.

In the second half, MIT stopped being hospitable. Needing the win to stay in contention for the league title, MIT quickly pulled away from Wheaton in the second half on the strength of a 22-5 run.

Several Engineers turned in big efforts during the run. Smith, Crystal A. Russell ’03, and Megan C. Daugherty ’03 combined to lock down the Lyons’ three leading scorers. Wheaton’s three leaders scored only 12 of their 34 points in the second half.

Defense was stellar. Estrada made seven blocks, the entire team ripped 18 steals from the hands of the Lyons, and MIT out-rebounded Wheaton 45 to 35.

The Engineers did more than out-rebound their opponents -- they outplayed them. At one point during the run, Wheaton earned a rare offensive rebound, only to have it tied up for a jump-ball by Smith, who is ten inches shorter than her opponent. The home team continued to play aggressively, yanking rebounds away from their guests.

The bench played forcefully with Maria E. Hidalgo ’04, Kathleen L. Dobson ’03, and Dwan C. Riddick ’03 each logging ten minutes or more of playing time. They fueled the attack that forced Wheaton to commit 25 turnovers.

Hidalgo and Dobson were each 2-for-2 from the free-throw line, and did their part for MIT’s overall 14-17 free-throw shooting performance. Amy W. Mok ’02 came through with a nice assist during the 22-5 run.

As the run came to a close, the defense frustrated the Wheaton bench so much that the Lyons’ coach inappropriately criticized a non-call and received a technical foul.

Estrada, Smith have excellent game

Estrada gave a superior effort at both ends of the court. On the defensive end, she would make a block. Then, on the offensive side, she would make jumpers with the shot clock winding down. Coach Melissa Hart decided to leave her in until the penultimate possession of the game, long after a win was secured, because of her performance. The final line shows that this was the best game of her career: 30 points, 14 rebounds, 7 blocks, 4 assists and 2 steals.

Smith also played well on Senior Night. Although she finished with eight points, her contribution was displayed through her trademark enthusiastic, hard-working play, forcing the jump ball with a Wheaton player nearly one foot taller than her. Smith was credited with three steals on the night.

When she wasn’t tracking down unsuspecting ballhandlers, she played aggressively in front of them. Contesting every shot, Smith screamed her battle cry and had a hand in her opponent’s face. Her exit came a few minutes before Estrada’s because of her five fouls. Her ovation featured fans doing their imitation of the Smith yell, which was not just flattering but a sincere expression of love and appreciation.

Team ranking fall into place

The Engineers would greatly appreciate a loss by both Springfield and Wellesley. These two unlikely gifts, matched with an MIT win away over Clark on Saturday, will give the Engineers the number one seed in the postseason tournament. A loss would jeopardize a chance to host a tournament game, because MIT would be tied for a fourth seed. Most likely, if this happens, the tie would occur with Babson, who fell to MIT 70-67 on Jan. 16th.

No matter what happens to the other schools tomorrow, a win is what the women’s team is after, pure and simple. It would bring them within two wins of the 1998-99 team’s season record of 20. That team made it to the ECAC finals, which was the equivalent of a Division I school coming second in the National Invitational Tournament. This team, this year, with a strong finish, can set their sights on the tournament.