By TIM PULSIFER
---- — PLATTSBURGH — Something will have to give this evening as Plattsburgh State hosts Williams College in the school’s first-ever meeting in women’s basketball.
The Cardinals and the Ephs will tip off at Memorial Hall tonight at 7 p.m.
It may be only a non-conference contest, but tonight’s matchup figures to be meaningful and intriguing on a number of levels.
For starters, tonight’s contest will pit two good Div. III basketball teams looking to make a lot of noise by season’s end in their respective conferences. Each would like to come up with a strong performance tonight to build momentum for the stretch run. In this sense, the timing couldn’t have been better for the first meeting between the two programs.
Let’s start with the visitors. Williams is a veteran team team (five seniors) in the midst of an outstanding season. The Eph have played most of their basketball outside of their conference, rolling up an impressive total of 12 wins in 14 games, including a 9-1 mark outside the NESCAC. Williams is a deep, talented, big team, with six players on the roster six foot or taller. Leading the way for the Ephs are 6-3 Claire Baecher (11.3 ppg, 2.2 blocks), Danny Rainer (6.5 rpg), Grace Linquist (11.8 ppg), Ellen Cook (10.4 ppg) and three-point specialist Jennie Harding (8.4 ppg, 57% from 3-point range).
A testament to its overall dominance, Williams is a remarkable plus 18 on scoring offense, having outscored its opposition by an average margin of 63-45 on the year.
As formidable as Williams appears to be on paper, Plattsburgh also boasts some impressive credentials. The Cardinals are off to their second best start in program history with eight victories to their credit. Plattsburgh is currently 4-2 in the conference and alone in third place in SUNYAC. Kathleen Payne (15.2 points per game), Brittany Marshall (12.3),Tequilla Lloyd (7.7) and Brooke Reifinger (6.8) have provided a spark on a roster bolstered by improving newcomers.
Payne is currently second in the conference in scoring (where she finished a season ago) to Fredonia’s Becki Hebert and was recently named State University of New York (SUNYAC) Player of the Week, averaging more than 19 points over the Cardinals last three games. Just midway through her junior season, Payne is also already on pace to become only the eighth player in program history to top 1,000 points in a career. The Goshen standpoint is currently just 69 points shy of the rare career milestone.
Plattsburgh has also been a much-improved team in defense and rebounding, two areas where it will need to shine tonight to overcome a taller opponent like Williams.
The Cardinals will face a pair of conference games this weekend at home against New Paltz (Friday, 6 p.m.) and Oneonta (Saturday, 2 p.m.).