A learning experience is always a good thing.
Saturday, the Skidmore College women's basketball team got one against visiting William Smith College. This experience helped the Thoroughbreds post a second straight victory.
In control for most of the game and leading by double digits in the second half, Skidmore needed to withstand a furious rally by the Herons to leave the Williamson Sports Center with a 57-46 Liberty League decision.
As for the learning experience, that came down to the Thoroughbreds finding out how to play with a large lead.
"No doubt about it - we have to learn to finish out games," Skidmore (4-7, 2-0) coach Darren Bennett said. "We need to take care of the basketball and adjust on the fly, sometimes without calling a timeout. Then it's just how to make plays.''
"But we got this game, which is great. Our kids came fired up and it's great to start Liberty League play 2-0."
The need to make plays came about after William Smith (7-4, 1-2) got within 47-40 with two minutes left on a Jacqueline Murphy bucket. The Thoroughbreds had seen their lead grow to 23 points (47-24) near the 10:00 mark on a Skylar Caligaris three-point goal.
But starting with a Lauren Brustein free throw, the Herons were on their way back.
"I think we played with a sense of urgency," William Smith coach Lindsay Drury Sharman said. "We went with a smaller lineup, started pressing a little bit more and started making plays."
But when Jordyn Wartts dropped in a pair of free throws with 1:45 left, Skidmore began to get a little breathing room. The Herons were no closer than nine points the rest of the way.
"It seems like we got rattled when they started pressing," Wartts said. "We couldn't handle the pressure at the moment. We have to as a team learn how to deal with the pressure."
Skidmore's Logan Frederick
Midway through the first half, it didn't look like a rally would be a concern.
Taking the lead for good (14-8) after three straight triples from Caligaris, Skidmore went on to a 28-16 lead at intermission. When Wartts hit a jumper not quite six minutes into the second half, the Thoroughbreds owned a 38-22 cushion.
The Herons needed another four minutes before finally mounting their comeback.
"They're a good team, so it's hard to get down that much and make it all the way back," Drury Sharman said. "We got back with seven and then it was a whole new ball game, but we just didn't have enough left in the tank to go the rest of the way."
"Both teams started out very, very slow, but then we hit our stride," Bennett said. "Skylar hit three shots in a row that really picked up our offense.''
Wartts, who provided the early second-half spark, finished with a game-high 19 points to lead the Thoroughbreds. Caligaris, who was good on four of seven three-point tries, was next with 14 points.
"Jordyn Wartts had a full game - probably the most complete game of her career," Bennett said. "That's huge for us if we can start getting those numbers out of her, then get our forwards to pick things up on the inside and get some points.''
"We've been trying to learn how to play two full halves," Caligaris said. "This game, we learned to play two halves to the fullest and finally came out with a win."
William Smith was led by Murphy with 14 points, followed by Sydni Salvatore with 10. The Herons finished with a 47-45 rebounding edge. Murphy had a game-high 11 boards, while Angela Botiba grabbed 10 for Skidmore.
Skidmore will be on the road for its next game with a 6pm contest Tuesday against St. Lawrence University.
ON THE WIRE