Basketball wins Cal tournament on way to 3-1 start

Many of the names and numbers may have changed after the Gannon University women’s basketball team’s record season last year, but the Knights still have the same goal in mind – winning.

Gannon began its regular season over Thanksgiving Break, playing to a 3-1 record in the Ferris State and California (Pa.) tournaments.

The Knights travelled to Michigan for the Ferris State Tournament, starting their season with an 80-68 victory over Northwood University Nov. 20, extending the team’s consecutive regular season win streak to 41.

Northwood kept the game close for the first 15 minutes, but the Knights close out the first half on a 17-5 run to put Gannon up 39-26 at the half. 

The Knights held the Timberwolves to a meager 30.7 shooting percentage and Northwood never came closer than nine points in the second half.

The next day, the Knights took on tournament host Ferris State. The Bulldogs controlled the first half, using a 17-9 run in the final six minutes to hold a 45-25 lead.

After shooting a miserable 11-38 from the field in the first 20 minutes, Gannon fired up the offense in the second half.

The Knights chipped away at the Ferris State lead, eventually whittling down the Bulldog advantage to two after junior guard Caitlyn Lowe nailed a three-point shot with less than 10 minutes left in regulation.

The Knights battled and took the lead with five minutes and 16 seconds remaining after freshman point guard Kelley Sundberg and senior guard Julie Kleber hit back-to-back threes.

The shots would represent the last points in the game for the Knights, as Ferris State went on an 11-0 run to wrap up the game and become the first team to defeat Gannon in the regular season since Jan. 24, 2009.

Despite the streak-ending defeat, the Knights see a silver lining in the game.

“We didn’t execute our game plan well, but we learned from it,” Kleber said. “It’s definitely a learning experience and it’s good to have that early in the season.”

It didn’t take long for the team’s newly discovered insights to sink in, as Gannon swept both games in the California (Pa.) Tournament Saturday and Sunday.

The initial match started off rough for the Knights, as opponent Molloy College scored the first 10 points of the contest.

Gannon would take advantage of the Lions’ bad ball handling, picking up 14 points off of 19 Molloy turnovers in the first half, leading to a 30-21 advantage at the break.

The Knights would use an 18-3 second-half run to take the game 66-51.

Gannon took control early in Sunday’s game against Wilmington University, roaring to a 22-5 lead after 10 minutes of play. The Knights never trailed in the game, as the team pushed its record to 3-1 on the season.

With five new players on the squad, Gannon looked to the latest generation for help over the break. The Knights were a steady rotation of their players, with eight players averaging at least 12 minutes of playing time on the season.

“We expect anyone that goes out to step up for us,” Kleber said. “We’re a team and one through 12 have to be ready.”

While a 3-1 record to the season serves as a good start to the young team, coach Cleve Wright said the team is constantly trying to improve as the season goes on.

“Every day is a learning process,” Wright said. “We need our young players to contribute and they’re already contributing. We still have to really gel as a team.”

The Knights will get their next chance to improve on the season when the team hosts Central State University Dec. 9.

ALEX BIELER

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