Down 11 points with less than six minutes to play, Sara Binkhorst ’15 carried the women’s basketball team into overtime last Saturday at Hamilton by scoring nine points before punctuating the effort with nine more in the two-minute extra period. Before the final whistle, she had scored a whopping 32 points—nearly half her team’s total. Binkhorst single-handedly outscored the Continentals in overtime. She finished the game having shot 9-15 from the field and 12-15 at the free-throw line. She got into the paint seemingly at will and used her jab-step on isolation plays to raise the threat of pull-up jumpers.
“She excels at taking people off the dribble,” said captain Megan Phelps ’15. “But she’s also an exceptional outside shooter.”
“She’s the team’s most reliable offensive player,” said Head Coach Adrienne Shibles.
The Hamilton game adds to an impressive streak of five double-digit scoring outings from Binkhorst, who has played some of her biggest games in conference play.
“When you play better teams you have to step up your individual game,” Binkhorst said. “We’re at the point of the season where teams need to get better.”
“I love watching her play,” said forward and leading scorer Shannon Brady ’16. “She has amazing ball handling skills and it adds a new element of offense that a lot of guards really can’t defend.”
In addition, Binkhorst hit two key three-pointers, one in the second half and one in overtime for Bowdoin, a normally strong shooting team that hit only 16 percent of their deep attempts in the game.
Poor long-distance shooting can be problematic for Bowdoin’s two-post offense because defenses typically prioritize guarding the paint. Shibles noted that Hamilton’s players dealt with foul trouble throughout, which forced them to play off Binkhorst as she attempted her drives, at risk of fouling out. As it happened, two of their guards did anyway. Binkhorst was responsible for drawing seven fouls.
“We had a mismatch,” said senior captain Allie Piscina. “We ran a couple of plays for her and kept going back to it. We knew down the stretch that they’d want to foul and Sara doesn’t miss her free throws.”
Binkhorst is averaging 12.4 points per game, tenth in the NESCAC and about double her output from last year. She has also pitched in with 4.1 rebounds and 2.5 assists per game playing as an off-ball guard. Along with Phelps and Brady, she is one of three players on the team scoring in double-figures and has become the team’s primary scoring guard. She has proven herself as an accurate shooter this season, averaging almost 40 percent from behind the arc and 89 percent from the free-throw line.
She started playing basketball at an early age but committed to the sport by the time she was in middle school, perhaps influenced by an uncle and grandfather who had played in college. Binkhorst, a Connecticut native, looked at schools only in the northeast and was heavily recruited by both NESCAC and Liberty League schools. However, her visit to Bowdoin sealed her commitment.
She saw only 14 minutes per game her first year and Shibles talked about ridding her of some bad habits, one of which was lackluster defensive effort. Her shooting skill had always been apparent though, and Binkhorst realized in high school how much better she could get if she continued to work on it.
“She’s always in the gym,” Piscina said. “Really we’re more surprised when she misses [shots] than when she makes them.”
Piscina also echoed what Shibles called Binkhorst’s biggest area of improvement: her on-court intelligence.
“She’s developed as a smart player,” Piscina said, “She values possessions and really takes time to appreciate when she has the ball in her hand.”
Binkhorst, a sociology major and teaching minor, was voted captain as a junior by her teammates. She is a member of Peer Health and a co-leader of V-Space. She won the team’s Most Improved Player award last year and will have a strong chance of receiving the award again if her play continues to improve.
The sports editor of the Orient chooses the Athlete of the Week based on exemplary performance.