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St. Francis soars past Huntington

RETURN: Sophomore guard Sam Hammel scored 10 points in her return to the Forester lineup during Huntington’s 68–47 loss to No. 14 St. Francis on Wednesday.

by Eric Andrews - eandrews@h-ponline.com

The RV Huntington University women’s basketball team lost a 68–47 decision to No. 14 St. Francis in a Crossroads League matchup on Wednesday night in Ft. Wayne, Indiana.

The defeat dropped the Foresters’ season record to 7–3, including an 0–2 mark in Crossroads League play. The loss also signifies back-to-back losses for Huntington after their seven-game winning streak.

As was the case in Huntington’s battle with No. 4 Marian, the Foresters started the game up 2–0 before the opening tip-off, as St. Francis’s uniforms were deemed to be illegal, giving Huntington two free throws, both of which were drained by junior forward Sarah Fryman.

The Foresters would score on their opening possession on a basket from junior forward Erin Mohr to grab an early 4–0 advantage. The Cougars would respond, eventually grabbing a 7–6 lead. The rest of the quarter was evenly played, but St. Francis got the last laugh, sinking a three-pointer on the final basket of the frame to take a 13–12 lead.

The Cougars took hold of the game in the second quarter, starting the period on an 8–0 run to go up 21–12. The Foresters would score a couple of baskets in response, but St. Francis then strung together a 9–0 streak to extend their lead to 30–16. At halftime, the Cougars owned a 32–18 advantage, outscoring Huntington 19–6 in the second quarter.

St. Francis again started well, this time opening the third quarter with a 7–0 run to go up 39–18, grabbing a commanding 21-point lead. The Cougars would go on to outscore the Foresters 11–8 in the period to hold a 43–26 advantage entering the game’s final quarter.

The Huntington offense would erupt for 21 points in the fourth quarter, but the effort was too little, too late, as the Cougars still managed to outscore the Foresters 25–21 in the frame to earn the 68–47 victory.

“There were a lot of things I was nervous about for this game and they all came true,” said head coach Lori Culler. “They had lost two games in a row, we replaced them in the rankings. Talk about having a chip on your shoulder. And we had a week where we have been trying to catch people up that had been out, so the level of intensity in practice probably wasn’t where it needed to be the last two days. We bring some people back; we had kind of been in a rhythm of rotation and that kind of thing. And then when you can’t put the ball in the hoop when you’re wide open, you’re not going to win many games.”

The Foresters struggled mightily to convert on shots, hitting just one three-pointer of their 17 attempts. Huntington also failed to live up to their high-level free throw shooting against the Cougars, shooting under 70 percent from the line, nearly 10 percent lower than their average percentage. Rebounding was also an issue for the Foresters, with St. Francis out-rebounding Huntington 43–25.

Fryman paced the Foresters with 14 points in the contest. Sophomore guard Sam Hammel, who made her return to the Huntington lineup, sank 10 points while snagging a team-high five rebounds and tying senior guard Mikala Avina for the team lead in assists with two.

“Sam is never going to be one that lacks effort,” Culler said. “She just gave it all she could and I think, at times, there’s some rust there that needs to come off gradually. I can’t fault anything about her game and what she was doing out there. There were times where she probably did try to do a little too much, but I don’t fault that. She’s trying to create something and be the distributor, and some of those things she was doing really well when she got hurt and now she kind of has to build her confidence back up.”

The contest saw 12 Foresters receive playing time and 10 finding the scoresheet, with junior forward Cindy In’t Groen (six points), freshman guard Erica Zook (five points), senior guard Maddie Richer (three points), senior forward Casey Morton (three points), Mohr (two points), senior forward Brooke Saylor (two points), freshman guard (one point) and sophomore center Alexandria Bope (one point) all scoring for the Foresters in the losing effort, speaking to the depth of the Forester roster.

Overall, Huntington converted on just 15 of their 52 field goal attempts in the contest.

“If we don’t shoot well, it’s going to be a struggle for us,” Culler said. “Defensively, we do some things fairly well, but we’re not going to hold people to 45 points to be able to win 47–45, so we gotta be able to shoot the ball. We just didn’t have it tonight.”

In contrast to Huntington’s game against Marian, Culler felt encouraged with the team’s ability to break the press throughout the night, a sign of improvement offensively as a unit.

Sidney Crowe drained a career-high 25 points for the Cougars, while Lauren McBryar added 11 in the win for St. Francis. The victory improved St. Francis’s season record to 6–4, including a 1–1 mark in the Crossroads League.

Up next for the Foresters is another Crossroads League matchup, as they travel to Ohio to face Mt. Vernon Nazarene on Dec. 1. Opening tip-off is scheduled for 1 p.m.