The girls varsity basketball team closed with a 10-1 run to earn a thrilling 55-51 victory over Williston on Jan. 23.
Leanna Wells ’23 led the way with 17 points, including the last six for the Bearcats (6-2), despite playing the majority of the second half with four fouls. Starting point guard Kaila Richards ’25 led all Hotchkiss scorers with 22 points.
Both teams struggled to score the ball, shooting a collective 30% from the field, but Hotchkiss made up for the misses on the boards. The Bearcats outrebounded the Wildcats 35-21, collecting nearly as many offensive rebounds (18) as Williston had on defense.
Half of those rebounds came from Morgan Jenkins ’25, who earned a double-double with 17 rebounds and 10 points.
Hotchkiss also turned up the pressure on defense, forcing 24 Williston turnovers, including seven in the final two minutes to help spark the frantic comeback.
At the beginning of the game, it seemed as though things might turn into a runaway for the visitors, as Williston jumped out to an early 8-0 lead. Wells finally hit the first basket for the Bearcats nearly halfway through the quarter.
Hotchkiss settled itself and scored the next nine points to take an 11-8 lead, with Amber Bretz ’23 giving the Bearcats their first lead of the game with two minutes left on the clock. Williston stopped the run with three free throws before Leighton Smith ’24 hit one of her own to give Hotchkiss a 12-11 lead as the horn sounded.
In the second quarter, Hotchkiss expanded its lead to six points on the back of some sizzling long-distance shooting from Richards, who hit all four of her three-pointers in the period. Two came on back to back possessions to give Hotchkiss its biggest lead of the day at 21-14. Although Williston rallied to cut the margin to two, another Richards three-pointer and a free throw by Wells gave Hotchkiss a 27-21 halftime lead.
The third quarter turned into a series of runs by both teams as the lead seesawed back and forth. Incredibly, the two teams traded three double-digit runs in a row – first ten points from Williston, followed by 12 points from Hotchkiss, and then another ten points from the Wildcats to give the visitors a narrow 41-39 lead going into the fourth quarter.
In the final period, Williston expanded its margin as the run grew to 17-3 and the lead grew to six points at 48-42. The Bearcats chipped away with free throws, but Williston continued to nurse a three-point lead at 51-47 with two minutes remaining.
In the final frantic minutes, Hotchkiss ratcheted up the defensive pressure, and Williston would not get off a shot. After a pair of Wells free throws tied the game at 51, Hotchkiss forced a jump ball to regain possession with 21 seconds remaining.
After Wells received the inbounds passed, she had an open lane to the basket, laying in the ball to give Hotchkiss its first lead in the quarter and sending the packed student section into a frenzy.