McDaniel installed a new defense this year, and the Green Terror have seen results despite an up-and-down campaign.
But they hadn’t put it all together for a signature win — until Saturday, the final home game of the season, against one of the top teams in the Centennial Conference.
The Terror stood tall on defense, particularly in the second half, and held off Haverford to win 41-38 at Gill Center.
McDaniel (12-11, 10-8 Centennial) beat a Fords team that won 10 games in January and had knocked off 16th-ranked Muhlenberg on Tuesday. The Green Terror held Haverford (19-5, 15-4) to its lowest output of the season.
“At the beginning of the year you look at the games you should win, and if you can steal one,” Green Terror coach Becky Martin said. “This is the first time we’ve stolen one all year.”
Chalk some of that up to McDaniel’s defense, a version of Virginia’s men’s basketball team’s “Pack Line” scheme. Implemented by assistant coach Phil Popielski, the Terror do their best to play in a half-court set that crowds the middle of the paint to make scoring a challenge for the opposition.
It’s a way for an undersized squad to minimize the damage done by a larger frontcourt, and it worked Saturday — Haverford’s bigs, Sierra Berkel and Samantha Wetzel, combined for 19 points. Wetzel came into the game averaging 13 points, but she totaled six.
McDaniel held Haverford scoreless for the first seven-plus minutes of the fourth quarter and took the lead at 32-30 when Halle Burgess sank a 3-pointer from the top of the arc with 4:37 to play. The Green Terror went up by five after senior guard Melanie Yeomans converted a three-point play on the next possession, but the Fords answered with a 3 from Julianna Clark two trips later.
Haverford twice trimmed the deficit to two, on 3-pointers from Clark and Macy Goldbach, but Clark missed a pair of free throws with 1:47 to go that wound up being pivotal.
Jasmine Smith, another of McDaniel’s senior guards, made one of two free throws at the other end 30 seconds later, putting the Terror ahead 39-36. Haverford missed a pair of 3-pointers but held possession and Berkel canned a pair of free throws with 42 seconds to go.
McDaniel worked the clock on its next trip and Burgess drew a foul late in the possession to get to the line for two. She made them both, and the Green Terror led 41-38.
Their defense shined on the final possession when the Fords struggled to get a good look at the basket, and Katie Cook’s off-balance heave from near her bench caromed off the glass with less than one second to go.
The Terror held on thanks to 18 points off the bench from Burgess, who sank four of her team’s five 3-pointers. Yeomans had 10 points, as did sophomore forward Liv Storer, and Burgess added five rebounds.
Saturday’s game was the final home contest for Smith, Yeomans, and guard Libby Bowles, and the trio agreed they didn’t want to go out with a loss. Leaning on their defense was key, Yeomans said.
“It was pretty tough in the beginning of the season, but we improved together and it got a lot better,” she said.
The victory keeps McDaniel in solid shape to qualify for the Centennial’s postseason tournament. The Terror are in the fifth and final spot for the playoffs, with Gettysburg, Muhlenberg, Haverford, and Johns Hopkins ahead of them.
McDaniel, which has won three in a row and four of its last five, closes out the regular season with road games against Gettysburg (Wednesday) and Muhlenberg (Feb. 17).
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“We’ve let some slip away we thought we should have, but we actually caught [Haverford] off guard,” Martin said. “Our defense did a phenomenal job.”