Rensselaer women’s basketball didn’t start well at Rochester Institute of Technology last Friday night. After the Tigers made two 3-pointers and the Engineer’s three turnovers, RPI found themselves down 8-0, just over three minutes into the contest. It wasn’t until the 13:47 mark in the opening half that the Engineers scored a field goal on a jump shot by senior guard Bailei Tetrault. Moments later, freshman forward Shaina Iton blocked an RIT forward Merissa Maiorano jumper. Junior guard Lauren Young grabbed the ball and threw it ahead to a sprinting senior guard Amanda Lynch who laid the ball in for the easy deuce.
RIT then went on another run, outscoring the Engineers 19-4 over a nine-minute stretch to open up a 20-point lead late in the first half. Later, a jumper by Maiorano swelled the lead to 23 with 24 seconds left. Rensselaer cut into the lead by getting a driving layup by junior guard Ashley Clough and a much needed final seconds 3-pointer from Tetrault before halftime.
The Engineers came out firing in the second half. Clough drove inside on RPI’s first possession and kicked the ball out to Lynch who drilled a jumper from the right wing. Later, Iton grabbed her own miss and scored a layup and free throw to pull the visiting team within 12 points early in the second half. With four and a half minutes gone by in the second half, Lynch refused to be denied at the rim. Her first attempt was rejected by Maiorano, but grabbing the loose ball, Lynch turned and flicked the ball over her defender for a hard-earned two points.
The run continued two minutes later when Lynch hit another RPI triple assisted by senior guard Michelle Reid to cut the lead to eight. Then, a RIT turnover resulted in a quick driving layup by Lynch.
RIT didn’t lose their composure following the 18-6 Engineer run to open the second half. Consecutive baskets by guards Ashlynn Palmitesso and Jessica Glaz brought the RIT advantage back up to double digits in a hurry. From then on, the Tigers matched RPI basket for basket and allowed the Engineers to come no closer than four down the stretch. In the final minute, the Tigers held on to the lead by making 11 of 12 foul shots (Glaz converted on all six of her attempts).
The final score was RIT 73, RPI 64. For the Tigers, Maiorano earned a double-double, scoring 12 points and grabbing 10 rebounds. Palmitesso made six of her 11 field goal attempts and led the Tigers with 16 points. For the Engineers, Lynch led all scorers with 21 points, including 18 in the second half. Iton led RPI in rebounds with eight and added seven points. Tetrault finished with 14 points, her most in a game this season.
The Engineers struggled early on the following afternoon at William Smith College. Herons sophomore guard Melanie Patterson scored a layup that capped a 10-0 run for William Smith and gave the home team an imposing 22-10 lead. Again, the Engineers fought back. Tetrault stole the ball from Heron forward Courtney Chase and passed ahead to Clough, who found Lynch open underneath the basket for the lay-in. Forty-five seconds later, after a William Smith basket, Clough answered with a 3-pointer, assisted by Lynch. Then, Tetrault stole the ball again and hit Lynch cutting to the hoop for another layup.
At the end of the half, Tetrault dribbled past her defender and found Clough open on the wing for her third three-pointer of the game. At the break, the Engineers trailed by two, 25-23. In the first frame, RPI had shot just 9 of 36 from the field and 2 of 6 from the free throw line. William Smith didn’t fare much better, making just 11 of its 31 shots, only one of which was a three.
In the second half, the Herons started fast again, scoring eight of the first 10 points. Then, RPI once again showed its mental toughness, clawing its way back into the contest.
At the 16:42 mark in the second half, Young drained a 3-pointer to cut the William Smith lead to three. Later, Lynch stole the ball and passed it ahead to Young, who subsequently dished back to Lynch for a 2-point jumper to make the score 38-34 Herons.
With 9:14 to play, Clough mishandled the ball and was stolen by Chase, who passed it ahead to guard Ali Pliszka for a fast transition layup to give William Smith an eight point lead. In response, the Engineers rushed down the court and Lynch beat her defender for a quick layup. Under a minute later, Reid found Iton for a turnaround basket to bring the score to 42-38.
The RPI defense tightened on the Heron offense, forcing several low percentage 3-point attempts. Then, Lynch made two more jump shots to tie the score with 5:17 remaining, assisted by senior guard Courtney Reynolds and Iton, respectively.
Both teams defended their own baskets without mishap for nearly four minutes until Clough broke free and scored the go-ahead layup for Rensselaer with 1:25 to play. In the final minute, William Smith missed three chances to tie or take the lead. With six seconds left, Iton snatched the rebound off a forward Chloe Hayter miss and was fouled by forward Gabrielle Eure with 2 seconds left. A poised Iton made a critical free throw to give the Engineers a three point lead and RPI held on for a clutch 45-42 comeback victory.
In the final nine minutes of play, RPI outscored their hosts 11-0, winning on the strength of a dominating defensive stand and several clutch baskets. Lynch led all scorers with 20 points and nabbed a season-high six steals. Clough delivered an important 11 points and added five assists. For the Herons, Pliska led the way with nine points and four assists. Hayter made her presence felt by pulling down 17 rebounds, while Eure added eight points and 10 rebounds of her own.
By winning one of their games this weekend RPI moves to an overall record of 12-9 and a tally of 8-4 in Liberty League play. Next up for the Engineers is a Friday night trip to Saratoga to take on Skidmore College before returning to East Campus Arena on Saturday, February 14 to host rival Clarkson University.