BENNINGTON — The Southern Vermont College women's basketball team is getting used to this comeback thing.
Starting their game against Daniel Webster last week giving up the first 19 points, they came back and won. On Saturday against Wheelock, trailing by 15 early in the fourth, the Mountaineers sent the game to overtime, but couldn't complete the comeback, falling 87-84 in overtime at the Mountaineer Athletic Center.
"This entire year we've had a problem of starting slow and that gets us in trouble," said coach Mike Quinn. "We've lost two games in conference by [a combined] six points, because we have slow starts. [Against Daniel Webster] the other night, we got lucky, today, we didn't."
Shaniquewa Barnes had a career-high 26 points in the loss and also grabbed 12 rebounds to record a double-double. Amber Flagg added 23 on 7-of-17 shooting from the field and both Barnes and Flagg were good from the foul line, each going 8-of-9. As a team, SVC shot 20-of-27 from the line.
Chloe Longe also added 11 points on 5-of-8 from the field.
Wheelock took the lead early in the second quarter. Down 15-14, the Wildcats scored the next 15 in a row, surging out to a 29-15 lead with 5:35 left in the half. Turquoia Johnson (six points) stopped the run, and helped the Mountaineers pull within six at 36-30 at halftime. The Wildcats came out fast in the third, outscoring SVC 19-13 in the quarter to take a 55-43 lead into the fourth.
"I told my upperclassmen, you have to bring us back and be mentally strong," Quinn said.
But as they had done against Daniel Webster, SVC chipped away at the Wheelock advantage. With 5:50 left, Flagg stole the ball and went in for a layup to cut the lead to 63-56, then Barnes added a pair of free throws to make it a five-point game.
"The press was successful and we made those adjustments, [Wheelock] is a great shooting team.
Brianna Hochwarter, who led the Wildcats with 24 on 8-of-14 shooting from outside, hit a huge three to jump the lead back to eight, but a couple minutes later, Amber Dow drained a three, banking it off the backboard to make it 66-63 and with the press, Flagg had another steal and Barnes another layup to cut the lead all the way to one.
"[Barnes] was superb, she's long and established herself in the post, when she gets it, she makes it," Quinn said. "She gets to the basket."
Barnes gave SVC its first lead since the opening quarter with two free throws at the 2:17 mark and Flagg tied it again a minute later with an and-one to send SVC ahead, 70-69.
"I was just playing my game and post play is a big factor, I try to grab rebounds and score as much as I could," Barnes said. "We shouldn't ever dig that hole, but we're a second half team. We need to come out strong always, as the game goes on, we produce."
Wheelock fought back and Michelle Woods gave the Wildcats the lead again with 40 seconds left, but Dow stole the lead back with a big-time triple with 27 seconds to go. Jamie Grzych (13 points) made 1-of-2 from the line on the next possession to tie the game and Flagg was short on a potential game-winner, sending the game to overtime.
In the extra session, Barnes gave SVC a 80-78 lead with 1:25 to go, but Hochwarter nailed another three to retake the lead.
"We were getting out there and putting hands in [Hochwarter's] face, but she just made the shots," Quinn said.
Down 83-82, Danielle Simmons hit a floater for a one-point lead with 25 seconds to go, but Woods' basket in the final seconds gave the Wildcats a lead they wouldn't give up.