The Gannon University women’s basketball team found itself in a familiar situation following the conclusion of its game against the University of Pittsburgh at Johnstown – the win column.
The Knights currently sport an 18-1 overall record with a 7-1 mark in Pennsylvania State Athletic Conference. Gannon was able to avenge its lone blemish of the season against Edinboro University with a dominating 86-47 victory over Pitt-Johnstown on Jan. 22.
The Knights’ scoring was led by sophomore guard Morgan Neighbors, who drained 16 points, and impressively sank 4-of-5 shots from behind the arc. Gannon guards knocking down long-range shots was a theme against Pitt- Johnstown.
Junior guard Brittany Batts remained perfect on the night from the field while making all three of her 3-point attempts. Coach Jim Brunelli said that Batts has an undeniable knack to score when she has a basketball in her hands, but her accomplishments didn’t happen by accident.
“Batts is everything you want in a college player,” Brunelli said. “She is always working on her game with assistant coaches, and now that everyone knows what she can do from deep, she has been working on pull-up shots off the dribble.
“She is one heck of a shooter.”
Junior center/forward Nettie Blake also highlighted Gannon’s victory with 13 points, four rebounds and two assists. Brunelli said that Blake has really come into her own this season.
“She was given some freedom,” Brunelli said. “A big part of the offense is getting the ball inside.
“She worked on her game while playing in New Jersey summer leagues against the best athletes in her area, many playing Division I basketball.”
The win over the Mountain Cats propelled Brunelli to the 100th win of his coaching career. Brunelli said that he tried to down play the feat at the time, but understands that it is a huge honor.
“I got into coaching basketball not for the wins but because I love the game,” Brunelli said. “I took time this weekend to celebrate with a family dinner.”
The Knights will travel to take on the California University of Pennsylvania Vulcans at 5:30 p.m. Wednesday in hopes of etching 101 wins into Brunelli’s accomplishments. Senior forward Jen Papich said that the PSAC is such an interesting conference because any team has a chance to win on any given night.
“You’re looking at a conference that produced six of the eight teams for last year’s Atlantic regional,” Papich said. “The competition is incredible, and it makes every game both challenging and exciting.
“The PSAC is arguably one of the strongest conferences in the nation, and Cal is one the teams that makes it so competitive. It’s always a battle, and I am excited for [Wednesday] night.”
Brunelli said he respects the talent on the Cal U team, which has a 11-6 overall record and a 5-3 mark in the PSAC, and noted that he felt both teams had come a long way from the first encounter. The Knights defeated the Vulcans 73-64 when the teams collided on Nov. 20.
“Cal has been rattling off wins, and we just need to play solid defense,” Brunelli said. “The team that gets the most stops will come away with the victory.”
Brunelli also said that the team will need to focus on taking care of the ball, which will be useful when the Knights return to the Hammermill Center to take on the Seton Hill Griffins at 1 p.m. Saturday.
Saturday’s contest is known as the Pink Zone game, and it raises funds for women battling breast cancer in Erie. The game is open to the public and is free of charge.
Senior guard Kelley Sundberg said she is honored to be a part of such an amazing event.
“Our Pink Zone game is a pretty unique experience,” Sundberg said. “So many people come together to make this event possible and us players get to play for all those that survived and didn’t survive. It is very powerful to be a part of something like this.”
Brunelli said that he is proud to take part in his first Pink Zone game at Gannon, and added that he hoped for a great turnout because it offers itself as a platform to become more aware.