Knights prepare for vital rematch

The Gannon University women’s basketball team avenged one of its only two conference losses Saturday by handily defeating California University of Pennsylvania 92-76 in the Hammermill Center.

The Knights have dropped just two games to conference opponents this season, falling to the Vulcans and No. 2-ranked Edinboro University on Jan. 11 and Jan. 14.

Sophomore point guard Kelley Sundberg, who dished out a game-high seven assists in the victory, said she felt the Knights executed their gameplan well, especially defensively.

“We looked a lot to help side on No. 23, that’s their go-to girl,” she said.

Coach Cleve Wright also said he thought the team stuck to its defensive plan.

“We made them take some tough shots, some shots they’re not used to taking. They’re a good team and I just felt like we played hard,” he said.

The Knights dominated the first half, going into the locker room with a 44-29 lead after shooting 68 percent from the floor.

In the second period, Cal returned to go on a 10-5 run, but was never able to reclaim the lead.

Sundberg admitted that the team was slightly taken aback by the Vulcans’ renewed intensity, but that they quickly adjusted and responded.

“We kind of got down on ourselves, but once we got back that attack mentality everyone was going hard to the rim, getting o-boards and getting stops on defense,” she said. “On offense, we really got the ball moving and shared it well.”

Nine different players scored for the Knights, but it was sophomore standout Jen Papich who paved the way with a career-high 31 points.

Papich shot 11-of-15 and hit all eight of her free throws while also chipping in three boards, four assists, a block and a steal.

“She came ready to play,” Wright said. “She played well on both ends of the floor.”

Sundberg said it felt good to get the win after falling to Cal in the first round of conference play.

“I know when we were at Cal we did not play like ourselves at all,” she said. “So we came out here at home and got the job done.”

Sundberg also said the full-court press Cal tried to employ was good practice for what the team should expect from Edinboro Wednesday.

“It was good for us,” she said. “I know Edinboro will have a press like that so that’s a good warm-up for us and we handled it well.”

The Knights will look to even the score with the Fighting Scots as they travel to Edinboro Wednesday for a 5:30 p.m. matchup. Wright said the team is looking forward to meeting this opponent again.

“Every game is a big game,” he said. “But we’re excited to get a chance to go to their place and play them again on their floor.”

He said that one thing that will be different this time around is the team’s ability to remain focused under pressure.

“We need to keep our composure better and I think we have been since we played them last,” he said. “It’ll be a good test.”

Sundberg also said that if the Knights remained disciplined, they will put themselves in prime position to outlast the current conference leader.

“As long as we move the ball, stay strong, stay composed, we’ll be good,” she said.

Wright said the determining factor of the team’s success this season will be made not in grudge matches but in focused practices.

“I think our kids need to make the choice of how good they want to be,” he said. “That’s a choice you don’t make in the game that’s a choice you make every day in practice.”

Christine Peffer

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