'Saders can't overcome poor start.


Byline: Steve Farley

WORCESTER - The Holy Cross women's basketball team played some of its best basketball of the season in the final 16 minutes in yesterday's matinee against 17-time Ivy League champion Dartmouth. Unfortunately for the Crusaders, the first 24 minutes did them in.

Trailing by 21 points early in the second half, HC stormed back to cut its deficit to three points with 16 seconds to go, but the Big Green held on for a 67-62 over the Crusaders at the Hart Center.

HC, which has lost eight straight to fall to 3-11, wraps up its grueling non-league schedule here Tuesday night against the University of Rhode Island. Dartmouth, which snapped a two-game losing streak against the Crusaders, improved to 4-8.

Holy Cross coach Bill Gibbons said this year's team reminds him of the 2006-07 squad, which reached the NCAA Tournament after starting out 6-14.

"It was just like this, but we kept battling and we kept trying to get better, and we did," Gibbons said. "I'm sick of losing myself. We've got to keep fighting. The positives are Amy Lepley continues to improve and Meredith Ward continues to play well."

Lepley, a six-foot freshman, scored 13 of her team-high 16 points in the second half on 6-of-7 shooting while Ward, a 5-8 sophomore, scored all nine of her points in the second half, including a pair of key 3s during HC's 32-14 run that nearly culminated in a victory.

Whitney Fremeau, Brianna McFadden and Bethany O'Dell all scored 10 points, but O'Dell was in and out of the lineup with leg cramps. Brittney Smith poured in a game-high 20 points (7 of 12 from the floor) and a team-high eight rebounds for Dartmouth. Teammate Megan McFee tossed in 14 points.

"(In the second half,) we played really well, but obviously it wasn't enough," Lepley said. "I felt we had a lot of energy coming into the game. We dug ourselves a huge hole. Every single time we come out we think we can win. Every single one of my teammates hates to lose. It's getting tired, but we're going to be fine in the (Patriot) League. I guarantee it."

"We've just got to keep bringing it hard," Ward said. "We've got to...

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