Fontana fantastic for HC women

Note: This is the unedited version of the story we filed for the Worcester Telegram&Gazette

Special to The Telegram-Gazette

ANNAPOLIS, Md. – There were no funky old uniforms; no three players on each side of halfcourt. But make no mistake; Holy Cross’ 73-48 women's basketball win over Navy last night had all the feel of a turn back the clock night.

At least for Holy Cross senior Maggie Fontana.

Three years ago, Fontana was the Patriot League’s Rookie of the Year, averaging over 12 points per game for a Crusaders team that won 23 games and went to the Women’s NIT. As a sophomore, Fontana averaged better than 15 points per game, earning all-league and tournament MVP honors to help HC to its ninth league title. Last year, Fontana earned all-league honors again, scoring 14 points per game despite being hampered by knee troubles.

Following a second operation on the knee in as many years, Fontana has been a shell of her former self through most of this season, averaging just 7.7 points per game coming in.

The left knee is still not healed. Fontana’s coach, Bill Gibbons, says the cartilage is barely there. “It’s bone on bone,” Gibbons said. On the plane ride south for the weekend’s two-game road swing, the Holy Cross trainers had to apply a special wrap to keep the swelling to a minimum in the low air pressure of high altitude.

But if you didn’t know Fontana was damaged goods, you never would have guessed it last night. The only clue in the box score would have been her limited minutes (22) of playing time. Everything else was vintage Fontana. The senior from Barrington, Ill. went off for a game-high 18 points against Navy, shooting 8-for-10 from the field to jump start a Holy Cross offense that was struggling for most of the first half after jumping out to an early double digit lead.

Holy Cross (9-8, 4-0) scorched Navy’s defense in the first four minutes of the game, hitting 7 of its first 8 shots to build a 14-3 lead. Then Navy (6-11, 2-2) switched to a 2-3 zone, doubling down low on 6-3 Lisa Andrews, who had 6 of the Crusaders first 14 points. Failing to get the ball inside, and struggling from the perimeter, Holy Cross proceeded to go long stretches of the half without a scoring.

The fact that HC had two droughts of over five minutes without a point didn’t make much of a difference in the margin it built in that opening spurt. Although the Crusaders were just 3-for-21 from the field after the first four minutes of the half, their defense kept Navy at bay, holding the Midshipmen to 27 percent (6-for-22) shooting in the half while forcing 15 turnovers.

When Andrews buried a 19-foot buzzer-beating bank shot from the top of the key, off an assist from Fontana, the Crusaders took a 29-18 lead to the locker room at the intermission.

After the break, Fontana got on a roll, going 6-for-7 from the field, including a pair of three-pointers that helped force Navy to abandon the zone. The first came early, pushing the Holy Cross lead to 38-22 with 17:02 left. The second trey was like a dagger, building the Crusaders’ lead back to 15 after Navy had pulled to within 6 two minutes earlier.

“There are times when (the knee) feels good,” said Fontana. “When the adrenaline gets going, it’s not too much of a problem.”

Andrews, who has a bothersome knee of her own, added 16 points for Holy Cross. No other Crusaders reached double figures, but the way they played defense, the offense was more than enough.

The Crusaders limited Navy’s leading scorer, Nikki Curtis, a 49-percent shooter, to 2-for-11 shooting from the field.

Curtis tried to downplay the role Holy Cross’ defense had in the outcome. “Our shots just weren’t falling and we weren’t making the best decisions,” she said.

The final box score, though, told a different story. Navy finished the game with 25 turnovers and made only 17 of the 55 shots they fired up. The Mids were getting the kind of shots coaches like; Curtis and her frontcourt mate Kate Hobbs took 23 shots between them, most in the paint. But they only made 4 combined.

“This team is really starting to believe in our defensive system,” Gibbons said. “We defended like that even when we weren’t scoring.”

Holy Cross will look to complete a sweep on the weekend road trip when they meet American Sunday afternoon.
Box score

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