Going into Loyola’s Feb. 8 women’s basketball game against Navy, the Greyhounds backup forward Ashley Hunter was frank.
“I wasn’t really expecting much,” the sophomore from Abingdon, Maryland, said. “It’s always ‘Be ready to play if your name is called.’ You never really know if you’re going to go in or not.”
For most of the game, it didn’t look like Hunter would get a chance as senior forward Lauren Daugherty was already on the court. But that changed halfway through the third period when Coach Joe Logan called Hunter’s name.
As Hunter stepped onto the court, Loyola was trailing 19-30, thanks to Navy’s eight offensive rebounds in the first four minutes of the third quarter. But after freshman guard Stephanie Karcz scored two points for the Greyhounds, Hunter followed with a layup, completing Loyola’s 7-0 run and narrowing Navy’s lead. A few minutes later, Hunter picked up another two points, giving Loyola a nice boost and quadrupling her previous points-per-game average.
“Tonight, she was ready,” Logan said about Hunter during a press conference after the game.
Staying in through the end of the match, Hunter played for 14 minutes, nearly twice the number she played during the whole 2015-2016 season. During that time, she proved herself on the court, reaching a career-high seven rebounds in addition to seven points. Although Loyola fell 43-55, Hunter was able to slow the Midshipmen from completely dominating the points and possession by managing six defensive rebounds, the highest number for any Greyhound that night.
“It’s encouraging,” Hunter said about her accomplishments after the 7 p.m. game in Loyola’s Reitz Arena. “After not playing for a while, it kind of gets hard to motivate yourself to want to work hard every day in practice and show the coaches that you can go in. So getting the opportunity to go in and then really taking advantage of that was just motivating and encouraging.”
In addition to Hunter, another backup, sophomore guard Abby Omdahl, also made an impact on the game. Brought in for the fourth quarter, she converted a 3-pointer less than a minute into play in spite of Navy’s strong defense.
“Abby coming in and making that ‘three’ right off the bench – it was a tough shot,” Logan said. “I think it got everyone else going.”
That was the case for Greyhound guard Bri Betz-White, a team standout coming in with 940 career points. Although Betz-White sunk a 3-pointer to get the Greyhounds on the board in the first period, she collected only a modest 12 points during the first three quarters. But in the fourth period, the junior from Mechanicsburg, Pennsylvania, returned to form, earning nine points in ten minutes. That comeback, combined with the points she claimed earlier, added to the 20th time this season that Betz-White scored in the double digits.
But that’s not to say topping her record was the force driving Betz-White’s performance.
“There’s just a fire that comes in you like, ‘I’ve got to score; I’ve got to help the team,’” she said. “It’s never a motivation of ‘I need to get mine’ or ‘I need to get to this many points.’ It’s more like, ‘I need to score so we can win.’”
As much as Betz-White tried to turn the game around, though, her effort was in vain. Loyola was off to a slow start with an 11-0 run by Navy until the seventh minute when Betz-White knocked down her first 3-pointer. Her teammates followed up with an 8-0 run, but Navy responded with a 4-0 run, ending the first quarter 8-15.
“We’ve just got to start games better,” Logan said. “We were down 11-0, and then we cut it to 11-8. I just think that, at times, we weren’t competitive.”
In the second quarter, the Greyhounds fought harder to catch up. Despite twisting her ankle during the first period, Karcz broke an early scoring drought with seven minutes and 30 seconds remaining. Betz-White, Daugherty, and Lisa Mirarchi grabbed two points each for Loyola, but Sarita Condie, Taylor Dunham, and Ashanti Kennedy answered with equal shots for Navy. After an additional 3-pointer by Condie at the buzzer, the two teams were 16-25.
During halftime, Logan said he focused on encouragement, not discipline.
“These guys will tell you – I’m not a yeller or a screamer,” he said. “It was just kind of like, ‘Take a deep breath. Relax. We’ve gotten good looks.’”
Those “good looks” were an advantage over the other time the team played Navy earlier this season. During that game, the Greyhounds lost 51-77 after scoring only five points in the first period.
“When we played them the first time, they made eight ‘three’s’ in the first quarter,” Logan said. “So we really wanted to run them off the 3-point line and kind of play a 2-point game…. Rebounding was also going to be a big point of emphasis, and we wanted to pound the ball from inside because they’re not really that big. And we did that.”
But perfecting the team’s strategy is still a work in progress, Logan said. While Loyola is tied for fifth in the Patriot League, Navy shares the top spot with Bucknell. By taking on the Midshipmen’s tight defense and explosive offense, though, the Greyhounds are learning how they can continue to improve.
“I think the plan now is going to be to go to Ashley,” Logan said. “She did a great job of taking advantage of this opportunity…. So that’s a positive moving forward.”
Bob Trosset’s thoughts post game: https://youtu.be/lraopqKUR9c.
The Greyhounds’ next game is against Holy Cross on Wednesday, Feb. 22. Tipoff is set for 7 p.m. in Reitz Arena.