WATERVILLE — So close. So agonizingly, unbelievably close.

Colby had a chance Saturday afternoon to defeat Amherst, the top-ranked Division III women’s basketball team in the country. The Mules had the ball trailing by one, but couldn’t get a shot on their final possession and dropped a heartbreaking 51-50 decision at Wadsworth Gymnasium.

“This one, I just think it’s a bummer,” Colby coach Julie Veilleux said. “My heart really, really does go out to the team, because they really laid it on the line. They did what they needed to do. For it to boil down the way it did, your heart just goes out to them.”

Amherst (17-0) is ranked No. 1 in the nation in the USA Today/ESPN Coaches and d3hoops.com polls, and now has a 36-game winning streak. The Lord Jeffs are missing forward Lem Atanga McCormick (minor concussion) and had to fight off Bowdoin for a four-point win Friday. A day later, Colby also gave Amherst all it could handle.

The Mules led 28-25 at halftime, and took their largest lead at 48-41 on a long jumper by Jayde Bennett with 4 1/2 minutes left. Amherst, which won the D-III national title last season, responded with an 8-0 run, and went up 49-48 on a runner by Marcia Voigt (her only basket of the game) with 1:04 to play.

Colby (12-3) regained the lead when Cony graduate Rachael Mack (14 points) banked in a shot to make it 50-49. The Lord Jeffs got the lead back, as Caroline Stedman (14 points) drove right to left and hit an off-balance shot in the lane with about 20 seconds left.

After a timeout with 18.5 seconds to go, the Mules quickly worked the ball to Mack on the right wing. Mack, facing away from the basket about 15 feet out, tried to get the ball to Diana Manduca, but Manduca was so closely guarded it took her several seconds to get free.

By this time, there were only five seconds left, and Manduca dribbled over to the left wing, where she was swallowed up by three defenders. Manduca tried to lean and pass at the same time, but the ball bounced off Amherst players as time expired.

Veilleux said the play was supposed to have two options, and she asked for a timeout after both options were shut off by Amherst’s defense.

“There was five seconds left and I was just yelling, and they had no awareness of me calling timeout,” Veilleux said. “To be honest, I didn’t see what happened in the last five seconds, because I was yelling, trying to get a timeout.”

“It kind of fell apart, credit to Amherst’s defense,” said Manduca, who said she heard Veilleux yelling for a timeout. “I was trying actually to get it over to Aarika (Ritchie) for a shot.”

Colby used essentially a seven-player rotation, with subs Kelly Potvin and Bennett combining for 13 points on 6-of-9 shooting and nine rebounds. Amherst’s Megan Robertson led all scorers with 18 points.

Matt DiFilippo — 861-9243

[email protected]


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