To avoid playing behind the eight-ball for the remainder of the season and fighting their way out of a hole to make the playoffs, the John Carroll University women’s basketball team needed at least one victory this past week.
Making things more interesting was the lingering probability that senior Lee Jennings would pass Shayla Bell, who played at JCU from 2002-2005, to become the all-time leading scorer in program history. Jennings was only 20 points away from that feat when the Blue Streaks traveled to Berea, Ohio on Feb. 9 to face first place Baldwin-Wallace College. While few doubted she would surpass Bell on this night, many questioned the possibility of a Blue Streak victory.
Heading into the game, JCU had lost three of their previous four games. Their only victory during that stretch came against a lowly Heidelberg University team that is still in search of a conference win.
Nevertheless, JCU hung with their opponent, allowing them no more than an eight-point lead in the first 15 minutes of the game.
Junior Emilee Ritchie gave the Blue Streaks their first lead of the night when she connected on a shot from beyond the arc with 4:23 remaining in the first half.
After JCU extended their lead to three off a jumper from freshman Allie Lustig, B-W went on a miniature run to end the half up by one, 37-36.
Ritchie nailed her second of three shots from three-point land to put JCU ahead on the scoreboard on the first possession of the second half. After leading by as many as nine points on two separate occasions, the home team turned on a switch. With 4:34 remaining, B-W upped the ante and harassed the last place scoring defense in the conference.
In the span of one minute, the Blue Streaks saw their lead turn into a one point deficit. After a timeout by coach Kristie Maravalli, freshman Missy Spahar connected on two free-throw attempts to put JCU up for good. The final score read 75-73, an important victory for a team looking to stay afloat in the conference playoff picture.
With 28 points, Jennings accrued the 1,619 points to best Bell.
“It’s an honor to be the all-time leading scorer at John Carroll. It’s a mark I’ve been able to leave on the program and I’m grateful that I’ve had the opportunity to do so,” said Jennings.
The team had little time to celebrate as they had a weekend game on the road against one of the top teams in the conference in Wilmington College on Feb. 12.
The Quakers were riding high after winning eight times in their last nine games heading into the contest with JCU.
Inability to rebound was the central theme for the Blue Streaks all afternoon, and while they undoubtedly bested their opponents in the turnover battle, it was a poor effort on the boards that proved catastrophic.
The Blue Streaks turned the ball over only five times, but managed to grab a meager 22 rebounds compared to the 57 Wilmington hauled in.
The first half was largely all Blue Streaks until the final four minutes. Spahar drained a shot to put JCU up by three points with 4:40 to go in the half. Wilmington promptly called a timeout which triggered a 14-2 Quaker run to end the first half.
The second half offered no magic for the Blue Streaks. Propelled by a 22-point effort from Olivia Waters, the Quakers sent JCU on the long bus ride home pondering the mistakes of a 91-79 defeat.
Four Blue Streaks scored in double digits: Lustig, Jennings, Spahar and Ritchie, yet it wasn’t enough.
“This last game is important for us to get ready for the playoffs. It’s a time for us to fine-tune our faults, and get ready to make a run in the playoffs,” said Jennings, who finished the Wilmington game with 19 points.
The Blue Streaks (12-11, 7-9 OAC) have clinched a playoff berth. They will close out the regular season with a home game on Saturday against Marietta College before heading to the road on Tuesday in the quarterfinal round of the Ohio Athletic Conference Tournament.