Morgan Morrison, Smith College women’s basketball take down Babson (PHOTOS)

By KYLE GRABOWSKI

Staff Writer

Published: 02-13-2023 5:37 PM

NORTHAMPTON – Morgan Morrison ripped away the offensive rebound from Babson after missing a layup.

Smith College’s senior forward wasn’t about to let the Beavers ruin her senior day. Morrison powered a layup back up through contact, and tied Saturday’s NEWMAC showdown with 2 minutes, 14 seconds left in the third quarter.

After the Pioneers trailed all afternoon, she sank a free throw to give them the lead for good.

“I did take it personal. Some of our other seniors didn’t get to play, so I wasn’t going to stand by and let them face a loss,” Morrison said. “I wanted to win, and I wanted to win for them, too.”

The conference’s leading scorer and rebounder bettered her season averages with 28 points and 15 rebounds in an 80-67 win Saturday at Ainsworth Gymnasium. Morrison made 10-of-16 shots and poured in 17 points after halftime, as No. 5 Smith (22-1, 8-0 NEWMAC) won its 16th game in a row. The Pioneers are 11-0 at home and haven’t lost in Ainsworth since Feb. 5, 2020.

“The support our players get from the Smith community is near and dear to all of our hearts,” Smith coach Lynn Hersey said. “We’re grateful to represent Smith, and we play hard every game for this community. They showed up for us.”

It was a big game. Just one game separated the Pioneers and No. 16 Babson (19-4, 7-2) atop the conference standings. Saturday was their only meeting of the season and could very well determine the conference tournament host. Smith clinched at least a share of the conference regular season title with two games remaining and a two-game lead over the field.

“This game was absolutely critical,” Hersey said. “We’re really good at home, so to be able to play as many games as we can here is a gift.”

Article continues after...

Yesterday's Most Read Articles

Northampton school union votes no confidence in superintendent
State auditor: UMass violated law in axing Advancement office last year
Area property deed transfers, June 13
Former Gazette publisher Peter DeRose, who died Monday at 85, helped usher in contemporary era of journalism in Valley
Columnist Tolley M. Jones: Will there be time?
Humble superstar: Lee Anderson is the Gazette’s Person of the Year

Babson played like it, too, to start. The Beavers opened with an 8-3 run, and Greenfield native Samantha Smith scored five of those points. She finished with 17 points and six rebounds in just 27 minutes limited by foul trouble in the first half.

“You try to come out hard and attack them, because you’re not gonna beat a team like Smith unless you do that,” Smith said. “It’s just about sustaining it the next time we see them.”

The teams met for the NEWMAC tournament championship last season, and the Pioneers have claimed the last three meetings. Babson pushed its lead as high as 14 with 4:13 left in the second quarter after Camilla Silk hit a layup to make it 33-19.

Smith outscored the Beavers 61-34 the rest of the way. Amelia Clairmont added 17 points and hit three crucial 3-pointers, while Jessie Ruffner scored 13 points with five assists and six rebounds.

“We had the mindset of this is our home court in front of our home fans. It’s our senior night,” Morrison said. “This is not something we’re gonna let go easily.”

Hampshire Regional grad Katelyn Pickunka injured her right hand in the first half but still toughed through the second in the comeback effort. She avoided high-fiving teammates with her dominant hand and caught the official’s pass before free throws with her left hand. The grad student still added seven rebounds and two blocks and went 4-of-4 from the free throw line.

“That’s a real competitor. She defended, got rebounds, was really smart in supporting the guards in their defensive assignments,” Hersey said. “She brings a grittiness. Her experience is huge out on the court.”

Smith has two games remaining in the regular season against Emerson on Wednesday in Northampton and at Wellesley on Feb. 18. The NEWMAC tournament begins Feb. 22, and after Saturday’s result appears headed back to Ainsworth.

“It’s a great time for it all to come together,” Morrison said. “This was a really big week. Those games were really important for us. We have a job to do, and we know what to do.”

Kyle Grabowski can be reached at kgrabowski@gazettenet.com. Follow him on Twitter @kylegrbwsk.]]>