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Friday, April 19, 2024
The Observer

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Saints rally in fourth quarter, come up short in OT

After a fourth quarter rally where the Holy Cross women's basketball team outscored Olivet Nazarene University 22-11, McKenna Arena headed into overtime. Despite having multiple chances to win the game, including the contest's final shot, the Saints fell short 73-72. 

The initially low-scoring affair saw both sides struggle to score early, with neither team shooting over 30% from the floor in the opening quarter. Olivet’s defensive full-court press forced the Saints into some hard-fought possessions. When a Holy Cross player did break free, she typically struggled to make her layup. 

As the game moved to the second quarter, the Tigers began shooting the ball better than the Saints, who struggled mightily. The Holy Cross starters — junior guard Jordyn Smith, senior guard Lauren Morris, sophomore guard Kayliana Hammel, junior forward Grace Adams, and senior forward Neva Longhofer — combined to go 3 for 9. The lone bright spot was Adams, who had 6 points on 2 for 3 shooting and two free throws. 

The Saints were not helped by their eight second-quarter personal fouls. In total, the Saints were called for 27 fouls, which sent Olivet to the line 36 times. The Tigers scored 24 points, heavily shifting the fairly even balance of the game

The Saints only took 11 attempts but made eight. 

The third quarter was where the two teams found their stride offensively. The Saints scored 21, largely thanks to Hammel’s seven. It wasn’t enough to match the Tigers, who scored 23, largely thanks to their 10 free-throw points. 

Despite an uneasy feeling in a packed McKenna Arena as the game seemed to begin sleeping away, the Saints were still within striking distance, down 11.

After a long, awful shooting night out of the Saints, Holy Cross began what would become a 22-point fourth quarter with a Morris 3-pointer. With the make, Morris energized the Saints and helped swing momentum back to even. Morris finished the game with 11 points and seven rebounds,

Morris hit a jumper and Lilly Toppen shot another long ball to cut the lead to five. Then Hammel made a three to cut the deficit to two. The Saints finished the quarter making 8 of 13 shots from the floor while going 4 for 7 from downtown, burying the Tigers in an avalanche of points. 

The Tigers ultimately had a chance to win the game, but a block by Adams with one second left sent the game to overtime. 

In overtime, Olivet was awarded two free throws after a foul, and Brooklyn Marshall made both. After Adams made it a 67-66 game, Kayleigh Flach extended Olivet's lead by two until a Toppen three gave Holy Cross its first lead since 4:13 of the first quarter. 

Morris hit a three to give the Saints a 72-68 lead with 2:01 to play. After another Olivet trip to the line made it a 72-70 game, the Saints had a chance to win the game on a long pass to Longhofer. 

Longhofer, who beat the Tigers' press defense, had the ball on a free layup with a tailing defender but missed what could have been a season-defining shot. 

After Longhofer’s missed shot, the two teams traded possessions, with the Tigers tying and Adams missing a jump shot before Khendel Rolison made one final free throw for the Tigers. 

It put them ahead 73-72, and the Saints took a timeout with eight seconds to play. 

The Saints successfully inbounded the ball, but an awkward exchange between Adams and Smith resulted in a last-second desperation shot from Smith that just missed. 

The loss ends the Saints’ conference playoff run and their aspirations to make the NAIA tournament via the Chicagoland Collegiate Athletic Conference automatic bid. The CCAC has two bids, which are awarded to the regular season and postseason champions. 

The team loses seniors Neva Longhofer and Lauren Morris. Morris averaged 10.8 points per game, 3.1 rebounds, and 1.9 steals across her 29 games. Longhofer averaged 6.1 points, 2.1 rebounds, and 0.6 steals across 29 games. 

The key returning starters for the Saints are Adams, Smith and Hammel.

Adams had a sensational season for the Saints, averaging a double-double with 18.6 points and 10.1 rebounds in 29 starts. Smith averaged 11.3 points, 4.6 rebounds and 4.3 assists. 

Hammel had a strong sophomore season, starting in 29 games and averaging 30 minutes per game. She contributed an average of 11.5 points and 4.3 rebounds.

Though the Saints came up short, the season is undoubtedly a successful one. The Saints finished 12-8 in conference play, tying the program record and hosting their first CCAC playoff game. 

Head coach Tom Robbins will look to continue building on a successful couple of seasons next year.

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