LEICESTER, Mass. --- The Becker College women's basketball team kicked off their 2017-2018 season on Wednesday night with a clutch 57-54 victory over visiting crosstown rival Anna Maria College at the Leicester Gymnasium.
The Hawks of Becker start the season with a 1-0 overall record while the AMCATS of Anna Maria open at 0-1.
Junior forward Ciara McKissick (Charlton, Mass. / Shepherd Hill Regional) led Becker with 19 points on 54 percent shooting to go along with seven rebounds and three steals. Sophomore forward Sarah Ware (Oakham, Mass. / Quabbin Regional) had the second-best scoring night of her career with nine points off four-of-eight shooting with three boards, three steals and two assists. Sophomore guard Cassidy Harrison (Foxborough, Mass. / Foxborough) had nine points with three steals while junior forward Adrianna Dowdy (East Haven, Conn. / Hill Regional Career) pulled down a team-high ten rebounds while scoring seven points. Sophomore guard Mariah Triplett (Coral Springs, Fla. / Piper) came off the bench to score eight points with six rebounds.
Free-throw shooting was the Hawks' bane on this night as Becker made just 53.6 percent of their shots from the charity stripe, missing 13 shots.
Anna Maria senior forward Maritza Gustave (Fall River, Mass./Durfee/CCRI) scored 14 points with a game-high 13 rebounds and two blocks. Freshman guard Franchesca Hammond (Worcester, Mass./Doherty Memorial) had ten points in her first collegiate game, to go along with six rebounds, six assists and three steals. Senior guard Kayla Odegaard (Rockland, Mass./Fontbonne Academy) came off the bench to score ten points with eight of those coming in the first half. The AMCATS out-rebounded the Hawks 47-41, while enjoying a 24-11 advantage in bench scoring.
In the first, Becker was aggressive early, with hot-shooting by Harrison and strong defensive play sparking the Hawks to a 21-10 lead with 2:27 to go in the quarter. But the AMCATS started to lock down on defense to end the period, pulling to within six at 21-15, a sign of things to come for both teams.
Anna Maria's rally extended to 14-2 through 4:16 remaining in the second quarter, as they took their first lead of the game at 24-23 off two free throws by sophomore forward Deyarna Achille (Boston, Mass./Cathedral). A 7-0 Becker run capped off with a McKissick layup righted the ship for the Hawks, but they still went into halftime leading just 32-30. McKissick led Becker with eight points while Odegaard matched that total for Anna Maria.
In the third quarter, momentum continued to rest with the AMCATS, as the visitors went up by five off a three by Gustave with 2:39 to go. Triplett hit a three in the final minute to pull Becker to within two, and the teams went into the fourth with Anna Maria leading 45-43.
In the fourth quarter, the AMCATS appeared poised to pull away when they went ahead 52-47 on another three from Gustave with 6:48 to go. That was when McKissick put the Hawks on her back, as she attacked inside repeatedly, drawing contact and getting to the line. Becker took their first lead of the quarter off a McKissick free throw with 3:37 to go and the Hawks leading 53-52. For the first time since the first, momentum was with the home team.
With 1:51 left in the game, Odegaard made two of two free throws to close Becker's lead back to one at 55-54. With 32 seconds left, Anna Maria missed two critical free throws that would have allowed them to take the lead or at least tie. The Hawks came down the court and Ware made the biggest layup of her career to put her team up by three with 25 ticks to go. The last nine seconds saw a flurry as the AMCATS got two shots off only for Triplett to pull down the final defensive board of the game.
Becker is back on the court on Friday evening when they play in the Worcester City Tournament against WPI. Tipoff is scheduled for 7:30 p.m. Anna Maria hosts Ave Maria University on Friday night at 5:00 p.m.
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