Bucknell 72, Holy Cross 71 (women)

(Originally posted: Wednesday, 10:37 p.m.)

Special to The Telegram&Gazette

LEWISBURG, Pa. – It was a storybook ending last night at Bucknell, as the Holy Cross women looked to lock up the Patriot League’s regular season title. Unfortunately, it was a horror story for the Crusaders, who dropped a 72-71 decision to the home Bison (10-16, 4-9 Patriot) on what was a special night for Bucknell.

Before the game Bucknell honored its four seniors. At halftime they retired the jersey of the greatest women’s player in school and Patriot League history, three-time Player of the Year and former first round WNBA pick Molly Creamer. Then Bucknell senior Brooke Tomovich capped the festive evening by hitting the game-winning free throw at one end and making a game-saving block at the other.

Tomovich’s big plays at the end gave the seventh-place Bison the biggest upset in the league this season, at least on paper. Holy Cross (16-10, 11-2) came in having won 11 of its last 12, the only loss coming on the road at second place Lehigh. Bucknell came in at 3-9 in league play, just a game ahead of last place Lafayette, a team that had actually swept the Bison in the season series.

Bill Gibbons told his team before hand not to be deceived by Bucknell’s record. Only one of their league losses had been by more than 10 points and the young team, which starts two freshmen and a sophomore and brings two more freshmen off the bench, had improved of late, winning two of its last three, both on the road.

“They’re not a 3-9 team. I kept telling the team that they are probably one of the most talented teams in the league,” said Gibbons. “We just weren’t there mentally.”

Gibbons didn’t need a long memory to find an example of the Crusaders mental lapses. He needed to look no further back than Bucknell’s last offensive possession. During a timeout with the score tied at 71-71, Bucknell’s ball and 19 seconds to go, Gibbons set up his defense, calling for man-to-man on the inbounds pass, switching to a halfcourt trap, which Bucknell had struggled against earlier. The idea was to force Bucknell into a turnover at best, or at worst to keep the ball out of Tomovich’s hot hands.

Instead, “We never trapped the ball and they got it inside,” Gibbons said. “We let them get the ball in to Tomovich.”

Tomovich was fouled going to the basket, a foul that hurt Holy Cross double since it was Lisa Andrews fifth, costing the Crusaders their leading scorer for their final offensive possession.

That proved to be crucial after Tomovich, who led all scorers with 23 points in her home finale, left the door open by missing the back end of the two shot foul, giving Holy Cross the ball, down 1 with eight seconds left.

Maggie Fontana grabbed the miss and took it the length of the floor. With 6-3 Andrews and 6-2 Brittany Keil, Holy Cross’ two top inside scoring threats, both fouled out, Fontana had nobody to dish to when she came face to face with the 6-2 Tomovich on her way to the basket.

“I felt sick,” said Tomovich. “As soon as I missed the free throw, I thought no way we are going to lose because I missed a free throw.”

Tomovich swatted the ball out of Fontana’s hands, then dove on the loose ball with 1.9 seconds showing on the clock. Jessica Conte managed to tie Tomovich up, with the possession arrow giving the Crusaders one more chance. But Ashley McLaughlin’s off-balance scoop shot from in a crowd of white jerseys was off the mark, setting off a Bucknell celebration.

Gibbons refused to complain about the lack of any foul call on the final play. There was some contact, but not anything that would draw a whistle in that situation on the road. Coaches know that and understand that. Besides, what really had Gibbons upset was that his team ended up in that situation.

“It shouldn’t have come down to that,” he said. “We played dumb basketball. That was not a good performance.”

Offensively, the Crusaders made just 23-of-64 from the field (36 percent) while turning the ball over 17 times. Defensively, they allowed Bucknell to shoot 45 percent (14-of-31) in the first half, then hacked away in the second half, sending the Bison to the foul line 22 times, where they converted 18. In the process, Andrews and Keil got into foul trouble, forcing Gibbons to play without two of his three leading scorers for long stretches in the second half.

“I don’t know how to impress on these guys to play good defense without fouling. Fouling cost us the game,” said Gibbons.

Keil finished with 17 points, including 3-for-4 from three-point range. But with her foul problems, she played only 21 minutes. Andrews also reached double figures with 13 points and had three blocked shots. But like Keil, Andrews was limited by foul trouble, playing only 26 minutes.

Only the heroics of Maggie Fontana kept the Crusaders in the game. Fontana finished with 18 points and 14 rebounds, leading Holy Cross in both categories. Jessica Conte also reached double figures, scoring 11 points off the bench.

That was enough to keep the game close throughout. There were eight ties and 16 lead changes and neither team ever led by more than 7 points.

All was not lost for the Crusaders. With Lehigh losing to American, Holy Cross still managed to clinch the regular season crown. That means HC will have the homecourt advantage all the way through the league tournament.

The Crusaders will close out the regular season portion of their slate Saturday when they visit Army. (BOX SCORE)

<< Home

This page is powered by Blogger. Isn't yours?

©2005 Hoop Time. All rights reserved.