Coming into last week’s action, the hopes of postseason play for the John Carroll women’s basketball team were up in the air. Fast forward two games later, and the Blue and Gold are enjoying their third two-game winning streak of the season—their first since winning two straight against Wilmington and Muskingum between Jan. 7 and Jan. 11—and a trip to the 2012 Ohio Athletic Conference Tournament in the hopes of an automatic bid to the NCAA Tournament.
Last Wednesday, Feb. 15, head coach Kristie Maravalli and her Blue Streaks clinched a postseason OAC Tournament spot with their dramatic 73-71 victory over the Muskingum University Fighting Muskies.
The Blue and Gold started the game on an 8-2 run, and eventually pulled ahead by 10, following a Missy Spahar 3-pointer with four minutes remaining in the stanza. Following a brief spurt by Muskingum which cut the lead to five, two consecutive buckets by sophomore guard Heidi Mervar put the Blue Streaks back up by 10.
Thirteen Spahar points to start the second half put the Blue Streaks up 11, 56-45, with 11:17 to play. The lead would not last, however, as the Muskies came storming back on a 25-14 run tying it up at 70 with 2:16 to go. Then with the game tied again at 71 with 38 seconds remaining, senior guard Emily Day drained a free throw, pulling the Blue Streaks ahead by one with three seconds remaining.
The Blue Streaks then forced a turnover from Muskingum’s Amanda Dobbins on the Fighting Muskies’ ensuing possession. The forced turnover led to a foul against the Fighting Muskies, sending senior Emilee Ritchie to the free-throw stripe. The senior guard clinched the victory with a free throw putting the Blue and Gold up two points with a second left. Ritchie’s second free throw was missed and grabbed by Muskingum without any chance to put up a shot.
Sophomore forward Spahar finished with 25 points, her third 25-point scoring effort of the season. Fellow sophomores Mervar and Allie Lustig finished with 11 and 10 points, respectively, shooting a combined 8 of 9 from the floor, 5 of 6 from beyond the 3-point arc. Ritchie added nine points of her own as well.
Three days later, on Feb. 18 on Senior Night, with a postseason spot already clinched, John Carroll made sure to give its two seniors, Day and Ritchie, a final home game that they will never forget.
Following a season-high 93 points scored, which was fueled by a season high nine 3-point field goals, the Blue Streaks cruised to a 93-63 victory over the Marietta Pioneers. The Blue and Gold went a season-high 50 percent from beyond the 3-point arc with four coming from last year’s honorable mention All-OAC recipient, Ritchie. Ritchie finished with 19, her highest scoring night of the season since a 22-point outing in a victory against Ohio Wesleyan back in November.
“It felt good to hit my shots early in the game,” said Ritchie. “It was good to enjoy ourselves and get the win for the last home game.”
Spahar finished with a career high 26 points. Freshman Beth Switzler finished with a career-high 15 points, and fellow freshman Meghan Weber finished with 10 en route to a proper send off for Day and Ritchie.
“I was happy for them [Day and Ritchie] to have a senior day like that,” said Maravalli. “Not everyone gets to walk off the court in the last home game of their collegiate careers with a 30-point lead. It was just a great way to end the regular season.”
The Blue Streaks resumed action Monday night for the first round of the Ohio Athletic Conference Tournament at Wilmington College. Despite battling for a full 40 minutes, the Blue Streaks (9-16, 6-13 OAC) ended up dropping a back-and-forth game between the two sides, 60-54.
Spahar finished the contest with a total of 16 points and six rebounds while Ritchie contributed with 10 points and four rebounds.
While the 2011-12 season may have officially ended for the Blue Streaks, there is plenty to look forward to next season for this JCU team. JCU will return a large majority of its roster from this season, as only Day and Ritchie will be leaving due to graduation.
Spahar, who is one of the top players in the OAC with an average of 15.8 points and 8.6 rebounds per game, and Lustig, who leads the OAC in assists per game, will both return next season along with a roster full of talented and capable underclassmen.