Women's basketball cools off St. Joe's behind Graff's career-high 26 points

Meghan Graff scored a career-high 26 points as the Bates women's basketball team defeated Saint Joseph's 67-52 on Dec. 7, 2019. (Theophil Syslo/Bates College)

LEWISTON, Maine -- Sophomore guard Meghan Graff stayed hot with a career-high 26 points as the Bates women's basketball team defeated Saint Joseph's College of Maine 67-52 Saturday afternoon, ending the visiting Monks' four-game winning streak.

It is Bobcats' first win over the Monks since Jan. 29, 2013, ending a six-game skid in the in-state rivalry. St. Joe's is a four-time defending champion of the Great Northeast Athletic Conference and advanced to the second round of the 2019 NCAA Tournament.

Graff made 9-of-16 shots, including 2-of-4 from three-point territory, and made 6-of-8 free throws in her highest scoring output to date. Graff has scored in double figures in all eight games this season and averages 18.6 points per game, including 23.0 in three games this week. She added a season-high six assists.

Bates sophomore Ariana Dalia (Brick, N.J.) poured in 13 points on 6-of-8 shooting with nine rebounds.

Allyson Fillion scored 19 points and grabbed six rebounds for St. Joe's, while Kaleigh Walsh added 10 points and seven rebounds from off the bench.

The Bobcats (4-4) held the Monks (5-3) to 18-60 shooting from the field (.300), including 4-18 from three (.222) -- both of those numbers are the second lowest of the season for St. Joe's.

Bates junior Julia Middlebrook (Ridgefield, Conn.) came off the bench early in the first quarter when senior Melanie Binkhorst (West Hartford, Conn.) was whistled for two fouls in the first minute. Middlebrook promptly made a jump shot for the game's first field goal, then drained a 3-pointer from the corner for a 5-2 Bates lead. Graff fed Dalia for back-to-back baskets for a 10-2 Bates lead midway through the quarter. Cassandra Stapelfeld's three with 5:04 to play was the first field goal of the game for the visitors, and it was answered by a Graff three for a 13-5 Bates lead.

But St. Joe's finished the quarter with eight unanswered points to even the score at 13-13. Walsh started the run with a three with 3:18 to go. Bri Jordan made two free throws and Fillion made a jumper with 28 seconds left in the period.

Fillion opened the scoring in the second quarter with a layup to give St. Joe's its second and final lead of the game, at 15-13. Graff set up Dalia for a three-point play with 8:03 to return the lead to Bates for good at 16-15. Sophomores Mia Roy and Molly O'Brien both made a pair of free throws in the final minute of the half to give Bates a 30-24 lead at the break.

Junior Taylor McVeigh (Hanson, Mass.), who shared Bates' team lead with nine rebounds in addition to scoring seven points, scored on a putback to open the third quarter for a 32-24 lead. A three by Stapelfeld and a layup by Walsh helped St. Joe's close the gap to 37-31 midway through the third quarter, but Bates responded with an 8-0 run to open a 14-point lead. Walsh's three-point play in the final minute of the third quarter closed the deficit to 45-34 to start the fourth quarter.

Fillion drained a three just nine seconds into the fourth, cutting Bates' lead to 45-37. Jordan then fed Julia Quinn for a layup, and on St. Joe's next possession she made 1-of-2 free throws to narrow the gap to 47-40. Binkhorst then banked in a 3-pointer from the wing to return Bates' lead to double digits. Bates went on to lead by as many as 18 points before the final buzzer.

Bates is off until Tuesday, Dec. 17, when the Bobcats will host the WPI Engineers at 3pm.