Women remain focused

According to Coach Cleve Wright, the Gannon University women’s basketball team has consistently been the one of the youngest teams on the floor all season.

However, the unrelenting Knights have risen to the occasion with two straight unbeaten weeks, capping off this week with wins over conference rivals Slippery Rock and Lock Haven universities.

The Knights battled to overcome narrow margins in both contests, with the Rock’s sharp 3-point shooting in the first half pushing them to cut Gannon’s lead from seven points to four at the end of the first half.

“I thought we did a great job of keeping them out of the paint; they were just hitting their 3’s,” Wright said.

The Knights were able to hold the Rock to just 1-of-11 from 3-point range in the second half after shooting 7-of-17 from that distance in the first half.

“There were a couple kids that we wanted to make prove they could hit it, and they did,” Wright said. “So we came out in the second half and did a better job of closing out and chasing down shooters.”

Leading the team in scoring against Slippery Rock was freshman Nettie Blake, who scored her 16 points on 7-of-8 shooting.

“It really all just comes down to my teammates,” she said. “I know out there they have my back. Having that confidence on one end gives me confidence on the other.”

Another bright spot for the Knights in their rout of the Rock was the first minutes of court time senior Becky Innes has seen since sustaining an injury in early October. Wright said that despite her only having a week of practices under her belt, he wanted her to be able to get her feet wet.

“We really wanted to give Becky the chance to get in there,” he said.

Innes also said that she was excited to be back on the floor.

“It felt really good to be out there again,” she said.

Blake was also a factor in the team’s 73-64 win over Lock Haven Saturday, where she went for 15 points, second in scoring only to sophomore Jen Papich, the team’s season point leader. Papich went for 16 on 5 of 10 shooting while also grabbing six rebounds and two steals.

Wright said he was pleased with the way the team closed out the game down the stretch after being unable to stretch the lead past single-digits for the majority of the contest.

“We responded well with some big shots,” he said. “I thought we showed some mental toughness.”

Blake said that some of this mental toughness is a result of the conditioning at practices.

“Even though we hate running, it comes down to running in practice,” she said. “It makes it easy to out run and out work the other team in the last couple minutes of the game.”

The Knights will look to continue their streak with two home matchups at the Hammermill Center this week, as they take on Indiana University of Pennsylvania Wednesday at 5:30 p.m. and California University of Pennsylvania Saturday at 5:30 p.m. Although the team will be looking to avenge a loss earlier in the season to Cal, Wright said they are taking things one game at a time.

“We’ve got one more game in the first round and that’s IUP on Wednesday,” he said. “We’re right in the thick of it. We want to be ready for each and every game and we don’t call any one game more important than another.”

Blake said that while she is focused on IUP, she will be looking forward to taking on Cal again when the time comes.

“We’re entitled to a blood week,” she said. “Cal stole one from us that they shouldn’t have so we’ll be ready to get them back on our home court.”

CHRISTINE PEFFER

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