Gannon survives Marauders

After a near-perfect record last season, the Gannon University women’s basketball team encountered a new threat last week – a losing record.

Deadra Clarke/Knight
(Deadra Clarke/Knight) Freshman forward Jennifer Papich (11) drives to the hoop in Gannon's 77-71 victory over Central State. Papich tallied eight points, four rebounds and two steals in the game. The Knights were able to shake off scoring droughts and a second-half deficit to walk away with the victory over the 8-12 Marauders.

The Knights went 1-2 last week, including losses at Slippery Rock University and hosting Indiana (Pa.) University in the fourth annual Pink Zone game, a match that put Gannon at 9-10 on the season.

The Knights would even up their record in the next game, a matchup against Central State University.

In the first match, Gannon faced 3-16 Slippery Rock, hoping to build on the team’s last win. Instead, Slippery Rock shot the Knight’s hopes down, to the tune of 56.5 percent.

The first half was an offensive showcase, with the Knights taking a 40-37 lead into the second half of the game. The Knights countered the high-octane Slippery Rock offense by hitting six of their nine three-point attempts in the opening 20 minutes.

In the second half, however, the Knights offense slipped against the Rock.

Gannon’s shooting plummeted to 32.3 percent in the final 20 minutes, including missing all six attempted three-point shots. Despite their shooting woes and a Slippery Rock squad still hitting over half its shots, the Knights remained within three points with five minutes left. However, Gannon went only 1-11 in the final five minutes, leading to a 71-63 loss.

After losing a game in which the Knights attempted 17 more shots than their opponent, Gannon took a more defensive approach in the Pink Zone game Saturday.

The Knights took a quick 3-0 lead after senior guard Julie Kleber’s three-pointer on the team’s second possession. A 7-0 run to open the game was soon matched by an 8-0 IUP run. The lead wouldn’t be pushed farther than three in the first half, eventually ending in a 22-22 tie.

The Knights held IUP to a miniscule 28 percent from the floor with a tenacious defense missing from the Slippery Rock game. Even though the Knights attempted fewer shots than the Crimson Hawks, the Knights converted 45 percent from the floor to end up tied at the end of the half.

After the break, IUP took a quick six-point lead. Both teams’ defenses were on display for the next four minutes, as the score remained stuck at 31-25 until a pair of Hawk free throws.

The Knights pushed back, but IUP matched nearly shot for shot, as Gannon couldn’t come within three points for the remainder of the match.

Despite the loss, coach Cleve Wright said he felt good about the game.

“It was one of our strongest games so far,” Wright said. “It felt like a practice. We just focused on the game and fought throughout.”

Junior forward Kelsey McCoy said that the Knights hard work helped fuel the defensive effort.

“Our preseason is tough, both mentally and physically,” McCoy said. “It was like a battle on both ends of the court. We like to have our defense fuel our offense.”

The loss to IUP dropped the Knights record to 9-10 on the season, but the Knights wouldn’t stay under .500 for long.

Gannon and Central State remained close for the majority of the match, but a 15-7 run to end the first half would give the Knights a 14-point lead after the opening 20 minutes.

Central State came out of the locker room swinging, using a 14-2 run to tie the game at 45 less than five minutes into the second half.

The Knights pushed the lead back to 11 with some impressive offensive rebounding, but the resilient Marauders tied up the game with 1:34 in the game.

Clutch shots by Kleber and sophomore guard Jessie Tamerlano, as well as some tough defense, eventually pushed Gannon ahead 77-71, pushing the Knights back to 10-10 overall.

Despite the brief interlude with a losing record, the McCoy said that the team is still competing for every game, even if the mixed success can be testing.

“It’s definitely been frustrating because everyone on the team is a competitor, but everyone’s great,” McCoy said. “Honestly what really makes a win feel great is knowing that you left everything out there on the court. Coach [Wright] says these four years go fast, so you never want to feel like you didn’t give it your all.”

The Knights will get their next chance to climb back above .500 when they host Edinboro University at 5:30 p.m. Wednesday.

ALEX BIELER

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