Spartans split two at Claremont

Even though many Americans ate turkey over Thanksgiving weekend, the Spartans traveled to California and feasted on Sagehen.

The Case Western Reserve University women’s basketball team traveled to Claremont, California to play in the David Wells Classic against two combinational teams of the five universities. The team dropped a game against Claremont-Mudd-Scripps 78-58, but secured a win over Pomona-Pitzer, 74-73.

“The tournament was a great test for [us]…we’re learning to play on the road and build trust within the team,” said first-year rookie guard Emily Todd.

The Spartans opened the season with a close loss to Denison University, 67-63, and bounced back with a confident victory over John Carroll University, 80-64.

The team recently lost fourth-year captain Kara Hageman to an injury, but two veteran players, third-year veteran guard Hillary Hellmann and second-year returning guard Kendall McConico, are stepping up in her place. Hellman is leading the team 19.8 points and seven rebounds per game, while McConico is averaging 13.4 points and shooting 48 percent from the field over the past four games.

In the first half of the Claremont-Mudd-Scripps game, the Spartans took a solid 17-12 lead, making seven of their first eight shots, with Hellmann and Todd each contributing a 3-pointer. The Athenas took the lead in the second quarter with three straight trips to the foul line, but the Spartans closed out the half strongly by scoring five of the final seven points. Todd made a jumper before the buzzer to give the Spartans a 35-33 lead.

The tables turned in the second half. The Athenas went on a run in the third quarter, making five threes in the last three minutes of the quarter, taking a ten point lead. CWRU never recovered the lead back, with a 9-0 run by the Athenas to start the fourth quarter, icing the game.

Todd scored a career high 22 points, connecting on four of her nine shots from downtown, while Hellmann had 17 points on 3-for-8 shooting from three.

“We had a solid first half…[but the game] slipped away in the second half,” said Todd.“They made a lot of threes. [Although] we lost our composure, it was a good experience for the team to bond.”

Determined not to leave California without a win, the Spartans turned on the engines against Pomona-Pitzer, taking a 16-2 lead by the middle of the first quarter. The Sagehens went on a run to come back, but Hellman’s 3-pointer cut the run short, ending the first quarter with a 22-14 Spartan lead. The team maintained the lead throughout the second quarter, with the score 36-28 at halftime.

The second half turned into a roller coaster ride. The Spartans made the first five points of the third quarter, but the Sagehens went on a 9-0 run to end the quarter. The Sagehens then made back-to-back 3-pointers to start the fourth, while Hellmann pulled the lead back to 69-66 with a layup and a three, with 1:29 remaining.

Pomona-Pitzer then responded with their own three, but Hellman answered back with two trips to the line. McConico also was fouled, making one of two free throws as she extended the lead to 74-71.

Following a Pomona-Pitzer basket, a crucial turnover by CWRU led to a foul, but the Sagehens missed both free throws, ending the game 74-73 in favor of the visitors.

“[Although] the other team was hot and made threes, the upperclassmen’s leadership [made] us focused during the very last minute,” said Todd.

Hellmann ended the game with a double double of 25 points and 10 rebounds, while McConico filled the stat sheet with 17 points, four rebounds, four assists and four steals. Todd had 13 points in the game.

Although the Spartans allowed an average of 34 points in the paint, their gritty defence will be a challenge for taller teams.

Todd shared the Spartans’ defensive strategies.

She said, “[We’re] boxing out, matching physicality, and taking advantage of the other team being over-physical.”

The Spartans traveled to Ada, Ohio and lost to No. 15 Ohio Northern University on Nov. 29.
They will be back home for a game against the College of Wooster on Saturday, Dec. 2 at 1 p.m.