Women’s basketball team retakes 2nd place
As the regular season winds down, the race for the Iowa Conference title is heating up with three teams vying for the top spot. The Duhawks found themselves in a tie for second place with Buena Vista and only two games behind Luther for first with four games remaining. The first two contests were on the road beginning in Waterloo against Wartburg.
The Duhawks were neck-and-neck with the Knights for most of the game until the home team was able to go on a run. Combined with their tough defense, the Knights were able to hold off Loras and take the game, 60-50. This was the second straight loss for the women and dropped them to third place in the conference standings.
A Saturday afternoon tilt in Storm Lake brought the Duhawks against Buena Vista for a chance to regain their spot in second place with a victory. It would not be easy, as the Beavers offense had been formidable on their home court all season. They came in averaging 84.8 points per game on their home floor with the three ball being their go to. The Duhawks’ defense would be tested often and was needed to earn the crucial win.
It was back and forth from the opening tip as each side exchanged baskets to finish the first with a 21-20 Loras lead. As the second frame began, the Duhawks seemed revitalized as they went on a run to gain a double-digit lead. The Beavers clawed their way back behind Becca Pennington and her 14 points, leaving them only trailing 40-34 at halftime.
The trend continued in the third as Loras maintained their advantage through the use of free throws and the play of senior guards Kaitlin Phillips and Megan Jones. The duo buried a pair of three pointers to aid in the Duhawk attack and played strong defense to stay in front. Despite their best effort, Buena Vista could not regain the lead but stayed within range as the fourth quarter approached.
The final stanza mirrored the first three as Loras used a steady helping of free throws and three-pointers to stay ahead. Each time the Beavers thought they were on the way to taking the lead, the Duhawks would answer back and keep momentum on their side. Late in the game, Buena Vista was able to make it a one possession game and give themselves an opportunity to send it into overtime.
Buena Vista had 14 seconds to even the score, so they went to their leading scorer Becca Pennington. Trailing 71-68, Pennington needed a triple to prolong this matchup, but being covered by Kaitlin Phillips made that a difficult task. The senior guard played her tightly and prevented a shot with a block as time expired.
“We knew that BVU would be going for a 3-point shot to tie the game and, unfortunately for us, we knew that every single girl on their team could knock down a three. We just wanted to contest everything and not allow anything easy. The ball just happened to find its way into my girl’s hands. All I was thinking, to be honest, was just to be straight up so I wouldn’t foul on a three point shot,” Phillips said.
Loras pulled out the victory to move to 15-8 overall and 8-4 in Iowa Conference play. The main factor in this big win had to be the play of Kaitlin Phillips, who finished with a team-high of 19 points and dished out three assists along with pulling in four rebounds. On the other side of the ball, she added a block and a steal to show her strong ability on both ends.
After the win, Phillips credited the team’s performance on their hunger for a victory after two straight conference losses.
“We found ourselves in a bit of a slump after having lost the past two games prior to Saturday’s game. I think getting a win under our belt just helps to re-energize us a bit and get our confidence back underneath us. BVU was a crucial game for us to win, and they’re a team that has shown to be a dominate force in our conference and a real powerhouse on their home floor. To win that game was big for us,” she said
With two games remaining, Phillips sits just eight points away from joining the 1,000 Point Club. The senior has had many accolades in her Loras tenure, and this would be another impressive milestone, but she doesn’t let that affect the way she approaches the game. She remains humble and ready for the challenges ahead.
“Reaching 1,000 points is a neat milestone to achieve at home, but I’m just grateful that we have the sort of fans that make playing games for them such a fun experience for us as players,” Phillips said.
As the team heads back to Lillis Court for final pair of Iowa Conference games, the Duhawks seem poised to finish strong and make some noise before the regular season comes to a close on Saturday. With a home record of 8-2 during the season, Loras is right where they want to be in this crucial stretch.
The Duhawks faced Central on Wednesday. In the first matchup between these two, Loras secured a 77-54 win with four Duhawks scoring in double figures. Loras will close the season on Saturday against Simpson with tipoff set for 2 p.m. in the Athletic & Wellness Center.