Shooting Stars: Ballard, Polinski Lead Women’s Hoops To Two Wins

After losing four of its first five league games this season, the Colgate women’s basketball team has come alive as of late. With huge victories over then-first place Army and over Lehigh, the Raiders have vaulted into a tie for fourth place in the Patriot League.

In front of the home crowd on Saturday afternoon, the Raiders welcomed the Black Knights to Hamilton, looking to stop a four-game losing streak. Despite the disparity in records, Colgate came out strong and built up an early lead that the Black Knights could not overcome, winning by a score of 66-58.

In the opening 20 minutes, the Raiders hit 15 of 33 field goals while limiting the visitors to a mere eight field goals on 21 attempts. Colgate also forced 16 Army turnovers in the first half, leading to 12 more shot attempts for the home team. As a result, the Raiders held a 36-24 lead heading into halftime.

In the second half, the Raiders began just as they left off in the first half. The home team scored nine of the first 12 points of the half to build up an 18-point lead, and the lead grew to 19 at the 8:57 mark of the second half.

At that point, however, the Raiders went cold; Colgate did not make a field goal in the final 9:30 of the second half. The drought allowed Army to go on a 16-1 run that cut the Colgate lead down to only four points. However, the Raiders converted enough free throws down the stretch to secure the upset win.

The key to the Raiders’ victory was first-year Gretchen Polinski. The guard matched her career high in points with 18 and topped her career best rebound total with 12, notching her second double-double. Polinski also got it done from the charity stripe, nailing all six of her free throw attempts in the final minute (and 9-of-11 attempts overall) to seal the win for the home team. For her efforts, Polinski was named the Patriot League Rookie of the Week for the third time this season.

Senior Megan Ballard and sophomore Melanie Cargle also reached double digits for the Raiders, each scoring 14 points on the afternoon.

Looking to piece together its first winning streak of the 2005-2006 season, the team returned to the court on Wednesday evening. Behind a monster game from Ballard, the Raiders shot down the Mountain Hawks in overtime, 71-69.

Much like the game against Army, the Raiders came out strong in the opening half, taking a six-point lead into intermission. Ballard single-handedly got Colgate going in the first half, scoring 12 of the team’s first 14 points.

For most of the second half, however, the game belonged to Lehigh. On the strength of two big runs and 58 percent shooting overall in the half, the Mountain Hawks held a lead that reached 11 points with under four minutes remaining. The Raiders managed to cut into the lead thanks to seven points from Ballard, but in the end it was Lehigh that killed itself by missing four of its last five free-throw attempts down the stretch.

Despite missing their free throws, the visitors still held a two-point lead with time running down. But Ballard stepped up again for the Raiders, getting fouled on a drive down the lane and calmly draining both free throws with eight seconds left to send the game into overtime.

Lehigh’s late shooting woes continued in overtime. The team hit only 1 of 5 field goals, while the Raiders made just enough shot attempts (two) to take home the victory.

Ballard finished the game with 28 points on 10-of-21 shooting, and also contributed defensively with seven steals. Cargle (11) and Polinski (10) also reached double figures for the Raiders, with Polinski also grabbing 11 boards.

Riding its first winning streak of the season, the women’s team will celebrate Alumni Weekend beginning tomorrow at 4 p.m. by welcoming Bucknell to Cotterell Court. After looking to knock off the second top Patriot League team in as many weeks, the team then hosts Lafayette on Tuesday evening.