Messiah Gets Back To Winning, Handles St. Mary's of Maryland
St. Mary’s City, MD — The Messiah College women’s basketball team wasted little time returning to its winning ways this weekend, as the squad handed St. Mary’s College of Maryland an 82-77 defeat at St. Mary’s ARC Arena Saturday afternoon.
The win came just three days after the Falcons’ first loss of the season, while Messiah (9-1, 0-0) made certain of a different result Saturday afternoon: Seniors Nikki Lobach, Amy Reed and Lauren Schurr combined to score the game’s first seven points, helping Messiah maintain at least a thee-point lead throughout the contest.
“This was a great win for us on the road today,” said Mike Miller, Messiah head coach. “(St. Mary’s) is a team without a lot of bodies, but everybody on their roster can play. They can all score the ball and they make you pay for your mistakes. Every time we made even the slightest mistake Saturday, we paid for it on the scoreboard. I’m extremely pleased with how we came out and competed against a very good opponent this afternoon.”
The host Seahawks — sporting a 6-1 overall record entering the contest with just seven active players on the roster — kept things close at the conclusion of the first half despite trailing by a considerable margin for most of it. Miller’s team opened the contest with a 21-7 run while making eight of its first 11 shots from the floor (72.7 percent), but St. Mary’s refused to fold. An interior bucket from sophomore Julie Henninger made the score 40-29, Messiah, with just 2:40 remaining in the first half, but the Seahawks closed with a 10 to two run in pulling within a 42-39 count at the intermission.
The second half began in similar fashion to the start of the contest, with Messiah scoring 17 of the period’s first 24 points to open a 59-46 cushion with 12:29 to play. St. Mary’s was able to close to a six-point deficit just two minutes later, but back-to-back threes from Reed and Schurr sandwiched a made bucket from the hosts, pushing the Falcons to a 67-57 advantage with 8:10 remaining.
Messiah held the same lead (a 74-64 difference) with 3:10 to play, while Miller’s team answered every Seahawks’ push down the stretch. A jumper from Reed turned a six-point lead into an eight-point bulge with 2:02 on the clock, while a pair of free throws from junior Katie Kalb turned a 76-70 lead into a 78-70 difference with 1:32 remaining.
St. Mary’s would close the gap to just 80-77 with 44 seconds to play, but clutch free throw shooting from the Falcons — coupled with a big defensive stop — iced the outcome. Messiah made its last four free throws in the final 15 seconds of play, helping survive a finish that could have been even closer.
“We really played a fairly intelligent game throughout,” Miller said. “We had some unlucky things happen to us late in the second half, but we got through it. St. Mary’s hit some tough shots that were closely guarded, and we didn’t lose focus. I was very pleased with our performance.”
Lobach led the scoring pace for the Falcons, charting 22 points on a four of nine effort from the floor and a 13 of 14 clip from the free throw line. Schurr connected on four of eight from downtown to add 14 points, while freshman Angie Rapchinksi (13 points), junior Silalei Shani (12 points) and Reed (11 points) helped Messiah place five players in double-figure scoring for only the second time this season.
The Falcons will now return to campus to conclude final examination week before heading to Cancun, Mexico to take part in the Triple Crown Sports Caribbean Hoops Showdown, a four-day event showcasing teams from NCAA Division I, II and III levels (click here for complete schedule). Messiah will face off against Concordia University at Austin on Thursday at 3:30 p.m. and face 2006-2007 NCAA Division III National Champion DePauw University Friday at 1 p.m.
Those contests will conclude the 2007 portion of the Falcons’ schedule, offering a bit of reprieve for what Miller called one of the toughest non-conference schedules in the country to date. Messiah’s first 10 opponents have posted a 52-35 cumulative win-loss record.
“We have played some very good teams and still have two tough ones in Cancun,” he said. “This has been one of the toughest non-conference schedules in the nation at our level. To be at this point and to be where we are is good.”