Women’s basketball: Ally Yamada’s career-high 28 points helps Smith College take down Hamilton 74-56

Smith College women’s basketball coach Lynn Hersey talks to her team during a timeout against Hamilton on Tuesday night at Ainsworth Gymnasium in Northampton.

Smith College women’s basketball coach Lynn Hersey talks to her team during a timeout against Hamilton on Tuesday night at Ainsworth Gymnasium in Northampton. STAFF PHOTO/GARRETT COTE

By GARRETT COTE

Staff Writer

Published: 01-09-2024 9:01 PM

Modified: 01-09-2024 9:16 PM


NORTHAMPTON — Smith College guard Ally Yamada battled for a steal, poked the ball to Hannah Martin and took off running up the sideline. Martin swung it up to Yamada as time ticked down in the third quarter.

Yamada had no time to think, she just had to let it fly toward the hoop. The ball just released from her fingertips before the buzzer sounded. It was right on line, and right on time. Yamada banked home the half-court shot – much to the amusement of the home crowd – to give her 23 points on the night and extend the Pioneers’ lead to 59-38 heading into the fourth quarter. The senior added five more points to give her a career-high 28 points in No. 13/17 Smith College’s 74-56 win over Hamilton at Ainsworth Gymnasium on Tuesday night.

Jane Loo (eight rebounds, one steal) and Jessie Ruffner (seven rebounds, four assists) added 10 points apiece, while Sofia Rosa (four rebounds, one block) put up nine points in just 17 minutes.

It’s not often the Pioneers have a standout scorer given their tremendous depth from top to bottom, but when they do, head coach Lynn Hersey and the rest of the team make it a point to get the ball to whoever has it going on.

“The great thing about the buzzer-beater is that it was off of her dig and steal,” Hersey said of Yamada. “You get rewarded when you do the defensive dirty work. We have a lot of players who have the potential to have big nights. They’re not gonna have them in our program every night because we have a lot of depth, but when it’s your turn to shine and you’re feeling it, we’re gonna get you   the ball. Her mid-range game tonight was  spot on. Then she got really comfortable with the defense switching and started attacking off the bounce, and that created some great looks for her.”

Smith had its way early and often on the offensive end of the floor. The Pioneers got out in transition – kickstarted by their defense – for uncontested looks at the hoop, but also dominated in the paint when they chose to slow it down. 

After falling behind 4-0 early, Smith closed the opening frame on a 19-7 run led by Loo and Rosa, who had their way getting to the cup in the restricted area.

The lead ballooned to 41-25 at the break with more of the same – scrappy defense and free-flowing offense. Hersey’s message to the team for the second half was simple: don’t let the Continentals get back in the game easily.

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That meant taking care of the basketball.

“In the first half we held them to 25 points, and we were able to get some good looks off of our ability to push and keep the tempo high, which is how we like to play,” Hersey said. “We got to the rim, we got some good, easy looks early, and I think that gave us some momentum. In the second half it was a story of just keeping our turnovers low, keeping possession of the basketball and keeping the lead intact.”

The biggest difference in Tuesday night’s contest was the rebounding discrepancy. Smith had a huge advantage on the glass at halftime (plus-15), and continued to dominate over the final 20 minutes. The Pioneers out-rebounded Hamilton 40-24, including an 11-4 edge on the offensive end. A lot of it had to do with great positioning, but it also had to do with the clever scheming Hersey and the staff game-planned ahead of tip off.

“We tried to eliminate some of their shooting. Shooting generates long rebounds, which are harder to collect,” Hersey said. “And down low on the post, we did a lot of doubling, so that eliminated some of (Hamilton forward and leading scorer Taylor) Lambo’s touches. It was a combination of a couple of things factoring in to getting good position on rebounds. Then the technique of boxing out and holding your own. We did a phenomenal job of that tonight.”

Hamilton played Smith almost evenly (33-31 Pioneers) in the second half, but couldn’t overcome 39 percent shooting from the field, again speaking to the rugged defense Smith played. Yet despite the Pioneers leading in so many statistical categories, Hersey still wasn’t completely pleased. She called a timeout ahead nearly 20 points with under a minute to go because the second unit wasn’t running an offensive set correctly. While it may seem useless to the naked eye, Hersey used it to prove a point to her team.

“Whatever rotation is in, the expectation is to play clean and smart, low fouls, low turnovers, tough defense, and good execution on the offensive end,” Hersey said. “We have work to do there, so we gotta start putting that together.”

Smith (11-2) hosts WPI at 2 p.m. on Saturday afternoon, marking the official start of NEWMAC conference play.

Mount Holyoke 58, Lesley 50 — Tied up approaching the midway point of the fourth quarter, the Lyons ramped up their pressure and pulled away from the Lynx – outscoring them 12-4 over the final five minutes and change to pick up their second win of the season (2-11). 

Sophomore Libby Harris paced Mount Holyoke with 12 points, as the team’s mark of 58 tied its most of the season. Senior Teal Howle (six rebounds, four assists) and sophomore Taryn White (10 rebounds, three assists, two steals) combined for 18 points, while sophomore Kendall Maurer came off the bench to put up six points and a game-high 12 boards. 

Twenty offensive rebounds helped the Lyons to an 11-4 advantage in second-chance points and played a huge role in the fourth quarter.

Mount Holyoke hits the road to play Wentworth Institute on Thursday at 6 p.m. in what is the Lyons' last non-conference game of the season before NEWMAC play begins.