Colby men’s basketball coach Damien Strahorn remembers how close the Mules have come to a “signature win” over the last couple seasons.
“We played last year, Williams was in the top five here, and had a chance to tie it on a foul shot with three seconds left, and missed,” Strahorn said. “We played Williams this year down there, and we were right there at the end. Bowdoin, last weekend, was No. 18 in the country, and we had a three to tie it at the buzzer that went in and out. We’ve competed against teams that have established themselves.”
This weekend, Colby pulled off its biggest win in years. The Mules defeated Amherst 80-75 in Waterville. Colby was 1-4 in New England Small College Athletic Conference play entering the game. Amherst is the defending national champion, was ranked No. 3 in the country in Division III, and hadn’t lost a NESCAC game since February 2011.
“Defensively, during the last 10 minutes of the game, we locked in,” Strahorn said. “(It was) 60-60 with 9:30 to go. We got 15 stops in a 17-possession stretch over eight minutes, and opened up a 10-point lead.”
The Mules were outrebounded by 10, but compensated by shooting 51 percent from the floor and dishing out 23 assists against only seven turnovers. Colby used eight players in the game, and six of them are sophomores, including four starters.
“Just to see the growth with our guys, and the progress, and stepping up in a big-time moment, being able to get it done, I was really happy for them,” Strahorn said. “Then to follow that up Saturday against Trinity…”
Often, a team will follow up an emotional win with a flat performance. But Saturday was senior day, and the Mules survived a game-tying 35-foot 3-pointer at the second-half buzzer to win 70-67 in overtime.
Sophomore Chris Hudnut leads Colby in scoring (17.3 ppg) and rebounding (8.1 rpg). Sophomores Ryan Jann (12.1 ppg) and Patrick Stewart (11.1 ppg) are also in double figures. Another sophomore, Luke Westman, is at 8.9 ppg and is shooting 64 percent from the floor.
Colby is now 3-4 in the NESCAC. The top eight teams qualify for the conference tournament. Colby is tied with Trinity for sixth, while Middlebury and Wesleyan (both 3-3) are tied for fourth. Three other teams are 2-4, a half-game behind Colby and tied for the eighth spot.
“We’ve just got to keep working,” Strahorn said. “I think we’ve learned a lot about our team through the month of January. I think when you look at our season, the first 19 games, there have been some real high moments where we’ve played really well. I think there have been some inconsistent moments. All of those moments help you win and have success, as we did on this past weekend.”
The Mules have three conference games remaining and all are on the road — Friday at Middlebury and next weekend at Tufts and Bates.
“I know it’s going to be a tough, tough challenge,” Strahorn said, â€˜but you always talk about, â€˜Good teams win tough games on the road,’ and that really is the opportunity that sits in front of us.”
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Jillian Perron and Cheyenne Malloy worked out together over the summer, regularly waking up at 4:30 in morning. That one sentence describes the kind of leader Perron is and why Malloy has had such a strong freshman season.
Malloy and Perron are both Skowhegan natives (Malloy went to Skowhegan and Perron is a Mt. Blue grad) and are both starters for the women’s basketball team at Maine Maritime Academy. The Mariners were 11-7 overall and 8-3 in the North Atlantic Conference heading into Tuesday night’s game with Husson.
Through Monday, Malloy was averaging 7.4 points in 19.1 minutes per game. She was also leading MMA with 32 3-pointers and was shooting 75 percent from the free throw line.
“She’s had a phenomenal freshman year,” MMA coach Craig Dagan said. “Typically, when freshmen come into college programs, they have no idea what they’re in for. They think they’re ready, but they have no clue. It’s not necessarily the talent — it’s the physicality. Half the fouls at the high school level, they aren’t even close to being fouls at our level.”
Malloy has imporved during the winter. During MMA’s recent seven-game win streak, she averaged 10.7 points per game and hit 18 3-pointers.
“She hasn’t hit that proverbial freshman wall yet, because she was in great shape coming into the season,” Dagan said.
Perron, a junior at MMA, is also one of three captains for the Mariners. Dagan said it’s only the second time in his 13 years at the school that MMA has had a junior captain.
“She just does everything right,” Dagan said. “She is a great student in a really difficult marine biology program. She has improved as much as anybody I’ve ever coached. To me, that’s not a coaching thing — that’s a kid thing.”
Perron has started every game for the Mariners this season. In 20.1 minutes per game, she’s averaging 3.7 points and 4.3 rebounds.
“Tremendous kid. Tremendous work ethic,” Dagan said. “One of those players you need on your roster, where her stats don’t even come close to portraying what she does.
“The best compliment I could ever give anybody — I have a 10-year-old daughter, and I said at the banquet, â€˜If my daughter could grow up to be like Jill, I’d be the happiest guy in the world.’”