The women’s basketball team made history this weekend by being the first sports team at Castleton State College to win a NCAA tournament game.
To top it, the Spartans downed Plattsburg State the following night in the second round.
Two comeback wins advanced them to the ‘sweet 16’ round of the tournament. Out of 439 teams in division three, Castleton is one of 16 still standing.
The first win came over the Bowdoin Polar Bears Friday night, 64-62.
The Spartans came out a little shaky in the first half, but that was shortlived as they exploded in the second half, looking like a completely different team.
The lady-Spartans trailed at the first-half 29-26. Bowdoin launched 15 of 29 shots from the three-point arc in the first and stuck with that offensive theme the whole night.
The Polar Bears worked the ball around well, but more times than not they found somebody on the perimeter , shooting 42 percent of their shots from 3-point range.
Jade Desroches was electric scoring 32-points – half of the Spartan’s total points scored.
“Was not the plan, but happy it happened,” Desroches said.
Both teams were trading baskets in the first half, but it was Bodwoin with the constant upper hand.
The Polar Bears scored the first bucket to start the second half, but Castleton put up a stone wall with their defense after that.
Sparked by a Desroches layup, the Spartans went on a 14-0 run at 17:35. Bodwoin wouldn’t end the streak until Shannon Brady laid it in at 12:31.
Castleton led Bowdoin the rest of the game. Their largest lead was 11-points coming at 5:35.
However, things got interesting for the Spartans when the Polar Bears narrowed the gap 53-48 with 3:33 remaining.
After a timeout break Morrell Gymnasium was deafening, with Bowdoin fans praying their team could come up with another stop.
Desroches was clutch, hitting a floater high off of the top right part of the backboard just beating the shot clock and silencing the crowd with just over two minutes left.
Bowdoin players stood in disbelief from Desroches’s layup after a great possession of team defense and took the wind right out from them.
The game would end in fouls from Bowdoin and made free throws for Castleton advancing them to a historic win.
Desroches (32-points), Alyssa Leonard (9-points) and Meghan O’Sullivan (7-points) led the Spartans’ offense, while Shannon Brady (20-points), Megan Phelps (16-points) and Sara Binkhorst (15-points) led Bowdoin’s charge.
“Very excited and proud of these players,” Head Coach Tim Barrett said. “Our biggest win in program history.”
The Spartans’ win on Friday night gave them another opportunity to play the following night against the Plattsburg State Cardinals.
Castleton found themselves in a deep hole early trailing 38-20 at halftime.
The Cardinals scored first to open the second half, but much like the Bowdoin game, the Spartans came out in the second half reenergized looking faster and playing tougher defense as they chipped away at Plattsburg’s 20-point lead.
Desroches made it a 10-point ball game when she nailed a three at the 15:50 mark and started shifting momentum in Castleton’s favor.
The Spartans collectively tied the game 52-52 at 8:52 in the game.
Leonard gave Castleton its first lead with a layup making it 54-52. O’Sullivan and Shelby Labarge padded the lead with a few points extending it to 58-53.
Castleton held the lead by no more than seven-points for the rest of the game until the final seconds.
Plattsburgh State’s Brittany Marshall banked in a prayer from three-point territory to tie the game 65-65 with 47 seconds left.
Leonard missed the game winning shot forcing the game into overtime.
The Cardinals scored first in OT but Castleton responded with a bucket in the following possession.
The teams traded baskets for three minutes until Castleton took the lead with a layup from Labarge.
Key free throws by the Spartans in the final minute gave them a more comfortable six-point lead and another incredible comeback win.
“On cloud 9 right now, maybe even higher,” Leonard said. “I could not imagine having a better season than this.”
A big week of preparation, film study and walk through on the court is their game plan for Tufts right now, according to Leonard.
With the two wins on the road trip, Castleton’s journey continues, advancing to the ‘Sweet-16’ in the NCAA Tournament. The Spartans will travel to Tufts University on Friday March 14.