AMHERST, N.Y. - Junior Leah Spencer's (Brockton, Mass./Archbishop Williams) go-ahead basket with 5.7 seconds left capped a career-best 29-point day, and the Saint Michael's College women's basketball team survived Daemen (N.Y.) College's missed winning three-point attempt before the buzzer to capture a 59-58 victory on Friday evening at Lumsden Gymnasium. The Purple Knights, who played the first of two games in less than 24 hours in western New York, are 6-5 behind their third straight win, while the Wildcats slipped to 3-8.
Saint Michael's played its first game since Dec. 17 while moving to 2-1 all time against Daemen, having also won last year. Spencer netted 12 of her 29 points in the fourth quarter alone, shooting 12-of-21 overall and 3-of-6 from three-point range while pulling nine rebounds. Sophomore Emily Ferreri (Hyde Park, N.Y./Our Lady of Lourdes) added nine points and seven rebounds, and senior Indira Evora (Somerville, Mass./Somerville) had seven points, eight rebounds, five assists - to zero turnovers - and two steals.
Sophomore Samantha Delaney (Smithtown, N.Y./Smithtown East) snagged seven rebounds and rejected three shots, juniors Tomi Akinpetide (Sydney, Australia/Rice Memorial) and Maddy Bennett (Montpelier, Vt./U-32) gathered seven and six rebounds, respectively, and first-year Brianna Purcell (Bedford, N.H./Bedford) handed out four assists. Saint Michael's held a 47-33 rebounding advantage, including 16-8 on the offensive glass, which led to a 26-16 edge in second-chance points.
By hitting four free throws during the game, Evora upped her career total to 237 to take over 10th in program history, passing Jes Hambley '03 (234) and Kathy O'Neil '81 (235). Delaney now has 53 career blocks, moving beyond assistant coach Logan Pintka '11 (52) to occupy 11th in school annals.
Daemen, whose last seven losses have all come by 10 points or fewer, received 17 points from junior Sarah Saba, while senior Natalie Galus had 13 points off the bench. Redshirt junior Taylor Heinold totaled eight points and 10 rebounds, while senior Leah McDonell contributed eight points, six boards and five steals.
Evora's two free throws kept her team up 49-46 with 4:32 left in the contest, but three Wildcats combined to hit four threes during an ensuing 2:14 stretch, including Galus connecting on a pair, extending the lead to 58-52 at 1:55. Ferreri drained one of her own 18 seconds later, and Spencer's jumper cut the deficit to 58-57 at 57 seconds. Daemen missed a pair of ensuing free throws, and a Purple Knight missed a go-ahead attempt at 27 seconds, but Delaney grabbed the offensive board to extend the possession. Following a timeout by each team, Spencer put home a go-ahead lay-up through contact at 5.7 seconds. The Wildcats, who inbounded in front of their own bench after a timeout, had a good look at a winning shot, but a three-pointer bounced off the rim just before the buzzer.
The teams exchanged 4-0 runs to begin the game, as Spencer and Ferreri notched the opening two hoops before Daemen knotted the game at 5:39 of the opening quarter. Spencer drilled a three before Bennett's lay-in capped a 5-0 run at 4:01 to make it 11-6, but Saba's jumper with 1:41 to go brought the Wildcats within 12-11.
Saint Michael's responded with a 13-0 run in a matter of 3:14, which spanned the quarter break, as Evora scored five points while Ferreri had one basket and two assists. In all, five Purple Knights scored in the stretch, and the visitors led 25-11 on Purcell's lay-in at 7:42 of the second quarter. After being held to two points - both coming on free throws - while missing 10 straight shots over a 9:16 span, Daemen finished off a 9-0 run on Saba's three with 2:29 to go, making it a 25-20 game. Saint Michael's broke a 6:16 scoreless stretch on Delaney's lay-in with 1:26 left, but first-year Alexis Perdue's bucket again produced a five-point margin by halftime.
The hosts finished off a 16-2 run a little more than a minute into the second half, as Saba hit a three before McDonell came up with a steal and the tying lay-in at 8:58 of the third quarter. The Purple Knights twice went ahead on Akinpetide hoops, twice pushing their lead to four points on Spencer baskets, including 38-34 on a triple with 1:26 remaining. Galus buried a three before Saba's freebie with 22 seconds to go knotted the contest, but Spencer's jumper with three ticks to go sent the visitors into the final quarter with a 40-38 edge.
Spencer hit two more go-ahead baskets, making three shots that snapped ties within a 1:17 span, including burying a triple at 8:46 of the fourth period before her jumper made it 47-42 with 6:41 left and concluded a stretch during which she scored 12 straight Saint Michael's points. Daemen countered with a 16-5 jaunt that set up the finish.
The Purple Knights visit Roberts Wesleyan (N.Y.) College tomorrow for a 1 p.m. contest. The Redhawks, who are members of both the NCAA and the National Christian College Athletic Association (NCCAA), won the 2016 NCCAA national championship.