COLCHESTER, Vt. - The Saint Michael's College women's basketball team rallied to pick up the 500th victory in program history on Saturday, claiming a 65-60 decision from Merrimack College in the Ross Sports Center. The Purple Knights improved to 5-5 overall and 2-5 in the Northeast-10 Conference, downing the Warriors for the first time since Dec. 6, 2011, and snapping an 11-game series losing streak. Merrimack is 5-4 and 3-3.
Junior Samantha Delaney (Smithtown, N.Y./Smithtown East) claimed her fourth double-double of the season for the Purple and Gold, which played its first varsity season in 1973-74. Delaney recorded 21 points on 8-of-16 shooting with 16 rebounds, turning in 13 points and 10 boards in the second half alone. Sophomore Brianna Purcell (Bedford, N.H./Bedford) scored 13 points on 5-of-6 free throw shooting with a career-high nine assists, contributing four important free throws and a steal in the final minute.
Senior Maddy Bennett (Montpelier, Vt./U-32) had nine points and seven rebounds, while junior Emily Ferreri (Hyde Park, N.Y./Our Lady of Lourdes) added eight points, seven boards, three steals and two blocks. Senior Leah Spencer (Brockton, Mass./Archbishop Williams) handed out three assists. The Purple Knights held advantages of 28-12 in rebounding and 22-10 on points in the paint during the second half to overcome a 10-point deficit.
Junior Lindsay Werner shot 9-of-10 on free throws and finished with 21 points for Merrimack, first-year Alyssa Casey totaled 18 points, eight rebounds and four steals, while junior Karlee Alves turned in eight points, 10 assists and four steals.
After being down by eight points at halftime and 37-27 following Werner's jumper 11 seconds into the second half, the Purple Knights outscored Merrimack 20-10 over the next nearly 11 minutes. Five straight points from Bennett capped a 7-0 run that brought her team within 37-34, but the Warriors later went ahead 45-38 when first-year Mayson Kimball drained a three and Werner hit two freebies. Saint Michael's used a 9-0 run that bridged the final intermission, including scoring the last seven points of the third stanza, with Delaney netting six and Purcell hitting the tying free throw with no time left. Her lay-in at 8:39 of the fourth put the hosts up 49-47.
First-year Marissa Gattuso hit a tying jumper at 7:25, but Spencer countered with a three-pointer 26 seconds later, and she responded to a pair of Kimball freebies with a nice move in the paint before putting home a lay-in to keep it a three-point game at 6:21. Casey knocked down a go-ahead jumper with 3:01 to go, providing the Warriors with a 57-56 edge, but Ferreri netted two free throws with 2:08 left, accounting for the final lead change, . Bennett snagged the miss of a Warrior three on the next possession, and Delaney hit two more free throws at 1:25.
In a three-point game, Merrimack missed two shots in the ensuing 52 seconds but also forced two turnovers. However, Saint Michael's forced a travel with 33 ticks left, and Purcell followed with a pair of free throws to push the lead to 62-57 at 31.9 seconds. Casey buried a three at 22.4, but Purcell came up with two more important free throws at 21.2 before picking off a pass at 14 ticks, and Delaney iced the victory with another free throw at 8.0, as the hosts shot 9-of-10 at the charity stripe in the final 2:08.
The teams played through four ties in the opening 6:06, including when Bennett gave the hosts their first lead at 8-6 on a lay-in before a 12-3 Merrimack spurt put the visitors up 18-11 by 2:27. Alves and Casey split the scoring duties. The Warriors carried a 21-13 advantage into the second quarter and led by as many as nine points before first-year Nicole Anderson (Kittery Point, Maine/Marianapolis Prep) hit a three-pointer at 5:57 and sophomore Taylor Miller's (Falmouth, Mass./Falmouth) three-point play 30 seconds later cut the deficit to 26-23. Nine of the next 11 points came from Merrimack during a 2:16 span, with Werner scoring the final five to push the lead to 35-25 with 2:40 remaining. Delaney's putback before the buzzer created an eight-point halftime margin.
Saint Michael's played the first of three straight home games today, and will break for the holidays before hosting Roberts Wesleyan (N.Y.) College on Dec. 29 at 1 p.m.