WILLIAMSTOWN, Mass. - A quick start and a 16-8 lead seven minutes into the game went for naught as Whitman College dropped a 56-53 women's basketball decision to Williams College Saturday night at the Williams Tip-Off Tournament in Williamstown, Mass.
Coming of a 21-6 season a year ago and playing its 2011-12 opener, Williams shook off Whitman's opening salvo, rallied to take a 21-20 halftime lead and then held off the Missionaries in the closing minutes.
Whitman, which dropped a 65-61 to nationally-ranked NAIA powerhouse Lewis-Clark State in its opener Tuesday, slipped to 0-2 on the young season.
Senior point guard Jenele Peterson led Whitman with 18 points, hitting eight of 16 shots from the floor, and picked off four steals at the defensive end.
She was the only Missionary scoring in double digits, although sophomore Sarah Anderegg just missed a double-double with nine points and eight rebounds.
Up by one at intermission, Williams twice extended its lead to 10 points early in the second half.
With the Ephs ahead 34-24 four minutes into that second half, Peterson poured in the next six Missionary points to her side close. She connected on a pull-up jumper, turned a steal into a layup and then scored inside off a spin move.
Williams answered with a bucket, but senior Jenn Keyes responded with one of her two 3-pointers shrink the home team's lead to 38-33 with 12:47 left to play.
Williams twice regained a seven-point cushion, but two Anderegg free throws and a layin by sophomore Tiffani Traver helped Whitman close the gap to 43-40 with nine left to play.
Junior Kelly Peterson connected from the 3-point stripe with six minutes remaining to slice the Williams lead to 51-47 and the game stayed close the rest of the way.
Kelly Peterson's two free throws pulled the Missionaries to within 52-50 with 2:49 left on the clock. Following a Williams turnover, Whitman failed to connect inside on a shot that would have tied the game.
Williams added two free throws at the 1:42 mark to boost its lead to 54-50.
With just under a minute remaining, Anderegg scored inside, was fouled and hit the free throw to make it a one-point game.
Jill Greenberg was fouled with 29 seconds on the clock and knocked down both free throws, extending the Williams lead back to three points at 56-53.
Whitman misfired on its last shot with 12 seconds left. Claire Baecher, a 6-foot-3 junior who Williams with 21 points and seven boards, snared the final rebound to seal the victory.
The Ephs also got 14 points and seven rebounds from Danny Rainer and 13 points and 10 rebounds from Greenberg.
Baecher, Rainer and Greenberg combined to account for all but eight of their team's 56 points and all but eight of its 39 rebounds.
Whitman, which got eight rebounds (four at the offensive end) from sophomore Meghan White, held its own on the backboards, coming up just short on a 39-37 rebound equation.
Williams hit 52.2 percent of its shots from the floor in the second half to finish at 44.9 percent for the game. Whitman made just 30.6 percent of its field goal attempts.
The Ephs were just three of 15 from the 3-point line, although Whitman wasn't much better at four of 16. The Missionaries finished with nine steals while forcing Williams into 19 turnovers.
With Williams leading 8-7 early in the game, junior Shiann Dreadfulwater snared an offensive rebound and scored to spark a 9-0 Whitman run. Jenele Peterson's two layups and a Keyes three capped the spurt, giving the Missionaries a 16-8 edge with 13:30 left in the first half.
But the Whitman offense then fell into a funk and Williams finished the half on a 13-4 run to take a one-point lead into the break.
Williams, which is part of the New England Small College Athletic Conference, returns 12 players from a team that got off to a 19-1 start last season.
The Ephs eventually saw that season end with a one-point loss in the first round of the NCAA Division III national championship tournament.
The Missionaries stay in Williamstown Sunday for a 10 a.m. game with Tufts.
Williams 56, Whitman 53
WILLIAMS (56) - Greenberg 4-7 4-4 13, Baecher 9-14 2-3 21, Rainer 6-11 2-3 14, Macdonald 3-10 0-2 7, Harding 0-2 0-0 0, Borderud 0-0 0-0 0, Curzi 0-0 0-0 0, Jaris 0-1 1-2 1, Cook 0-3 0-0 0, Rehnquist 0-1 0-0 0.
WHITMAN (53) - Traver 2-7 1-2 6, J. Peterson 8-16 2-4 18, White 1-5 1-2 3, K. Peterson 1-5 4-4 7, Madden 0-2 0-0 0, Dreadfulwater 2-6 0-0 4, Anderegg 3-12 3-3 9, Ross 0-0 0-0 0, Forge 0-4 0-0 0, Keyes 2-5 0-0 6.
Halftime - Williams 21, Whitman 20. 3-point goals - Williams 3 (Greenberg, Baecher, Macdonald), Whitman 4 (Keyes 2). Total fouls - Williams 20, Whitman 17. Fouled out - none. Technical fouls - none. Rebounds - Williams 39 (Greenberg 10), Whitman 37 (Anderegg 8, White 8). Turnovers - Williams 19, Whitman 11. Assists - Williams 7 (Greenberg 3, Rainer 3), Whitman 2 (Ross 1, Peterson 1).