Led by tremendous defense and an MVP performance from guard Hannah Nicholson ’20, the Brandeis women’s basketball team swept the Brandeis Invitational this weekend, with two dominant wins over Mitchell College and Eastern Nazarene College.

Judges 63, Eastern Nazarene 51

After scoring a whopping 102 points in their first round matchup against Western Connecticut State, the Lions of Eastern Nazarene entered Saturday’s final at a confident 2-0. But as a smaller team with sloppy ball handling, the fast-paced Lions were vulnerable to the Judges’ defense and rebounding.

With nearly every player grabbing two or more rebounds, the Judges almost doubled Eastern Nazarene’s board count (42-23). Nicholson, who had nine, was one rebound shy of her second straight double-double, but behind 16 points and a team-high 73 percent from the field she was still given the tournament’s MVP award.

The Judges’ defense continued to shine as they held the Lions to 51 points, exactly half the number they had put up the night before. Led by guard Katie Goncalo’s ’20 team-high 18 points, the team held a steady lead throughout the game and won both the game and tournament with a final score of 63-51. 

After a disappointing loss to Westfield State in last year’s final, the win against Eastern Nazarene to secure the championship for the first time since the 2015 to 2016 season was a special moment for the team.

The underclassmen-heavy squad has shown tremendous potential in the season’s first three games, and if this weekend’s performance is any indication, the Judges could make some lengthy strides this year.

Still bogged down by subpar shooting, the team will have to improve offensively as it approaches league play. However, their defense and rebounding continues to prove itself in every game, and it’s only a matter of time before the streaky offense hits its stride and starts building some consistency.

Judges 67, Mitchell 46

The tournament’s opener was a lopsided victory for the Judges, who on Friday night defeated Mitchell by 21 points for their first win of the season. By forcing an incredible 28 turnovers and allowing only one second chance basket, the team pulled to a 38-20 lead at half and didn’t look back.

Despite shooting only 37 percent from the field, the Judges maintained their lead by dominating the boards both offensively and defensively, led by Nicholson’s 11 rebounds and guard Camila Casanueva’s ’21 six. 

Casanueva also added a team-high 12 points off the bench, knocking down two from the three-point line and making two steals. Fellow first-year forward Jillian Petrie ’21 was the second-highest scorer, shooting 4-9 from the field for 10 points, while also making four steals of her own.

The final score was 67-46, and with the victory, the Judges earned themselves a spot in Saturday’s championship game against Eastern Nazarene College. 

This was an amazing start for a team that hovered around the .500 mark last season.

The women’s basketball team has followed a trend that all other Brandeis sports have seemed to do this past season — recruit talented  new players who are able to make an immediate impact.

This team is stacked with young prospects who prove that this type of success is something that fans can get used to for years to come. With stellar offseason recruitment tactics and a developing core of star players, Brandeis basketball is turning itself around in a hurry.

The team will look for its third win of the season today at Emmanuel College. The Judges will then play on Sunday against Tufts University as they come back from Thanksgiving.