Gators win thriller on Wright buzzer beater

Box Score
WEST HARTFORD, CT -- Pine Manor earned its first road win of the season on a Paulette Wright putback as time expired, defeating St. Joseph College, 75-73, Saturday afternoon at the O'Connell Center.

Wright's mid-air tip in sealed a career game, as well as a probable GNAC rebounding title, as the sophomore went off for 26 points and 22 rebounds. Fellow forward Tia Nelson poured in 28 points, connecting on seven three-pointers in the finest effort of her freshman campaign as the Gators locked up an 11th-place finish in the Great Northeast Athletic Conference.

"It was our best game of the season," said Pine Manor head coach Alex Gould. "Paulette dominated."

Pine Manor overcame a 10-point late second half deficit to tie the game with under a minute to play. After a time out, with seconds remaining and the ball under the opposite basket, Wright's career-best 22nd rebound on an errant three-pointer preceded the game-winner.

"Coming out of the time out, Phibe [Pham] had a pretty good look at a three," said Gould, "but Paulette caught it in mid-air and put it back in."

The rebound also likely secured a GNAC rebounding title for Wright, who entered the final day of the regular season tied with Lasell's Kim Archibald and Rivier's Jess Mellen for the conference lead with 10.3 rebounds per game. With her career effort, Wright ends her sophomore season averaging 10.94 rebounds.

Neither team led by more than four points through the first five minutes. A Natalie Mastarreno three put the Blue Jays ahead 13-8 at the 14:19 mark, but Gould's Gators countered with a 9-0 run sparked by seven straight points from Wright. 

Nelson's first trifecta again gave the Gators a four-point lead, 20-16, just inside the 10:00 mark. Pine Manor increased its lead to five on a pair of Wright free throws before a Michelle Fillion three-pointer tied the contest for the sixth time with 5:23 left in the half.

St. Joseph regained the lead for the first time in over 11 minutes with two free throws from GNAC scoring leader Ilaria Schiano at the 2:00 mark. Gators guard and Hartford native Enjolee Phillips nailed a three with nine seconds in the half to send the teams into halftime tied at 35.

The Jays opened the second half on a 5-0 run, increasing the lead to seven, 46-39, on a Danielle Feola layup. Nelson answered with back-to-back threes to cut the lead to one before an 8-0 St. Joe's run capped by a Royce three-pointer just inside the 10:00 mark. St. Joseph worked its lead to 10 three times in the next five minutes, leaving the Gators trailing 65-55 with 5:32 to play.

Eight straight Gators points, six from Wright, pulled the Gators to within one with 2:43 left. After two St. Joseph free throws, Nelson's seventh three of the day tied the game at 68 with 2:11 remaining. A Royce layup with 54 seconds to play gave the Blue Jays back the lead before Nelson, who shot 7-8 from the line, calmly converted a pair to tie the contest at 70 with 30 seconds remaining.

After a Terese Collins layup handed the Jays back the lead, Lacree Robinson's three-point play gave Pine Manor its first lead of the half with 18 seconds left. Phillips' fifth foul then sent Mastarreno to the line, where she hit one of two to tie the contest with seven seconds to go. Gators junior Phibe Pham, aided by a Robinson screen at midcourt, drove the length of the floor and stepped into an open three-pointer that rattled out, but Wright secured her 22nd rebound and dropped in the game-winner as the buzzer sounded.

Nelson's 28 points marked a career high, as were her seven three-pointers. The freshman will also end her season among the GNAC's best, averaging 1.8 three-point field goals per game, which currently places her in the Top 10. Phillips added 13 points and nine rebounds, and Pham dished out a team-high five assists.

Pine Manor ends the season at 2-18 (2-10 GNAC), while St. Joseph falls to 4-20 (0-12 GNAC).

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