By Lisa Byers
November 17, 2012 7:00 a.m. MEADVILLE —
Many freshmen have to wait quite some time to make their collegiate debut in any sport. When the time finally does come, often times it’s during cleanup duty late in the season with the game already well in hand.
But for 10 Allegheny College freshmen that opportunity came in the Lady Gators’ season opener with plenty of time remaining and a chance to make an immediate impact. And that is exactly what they did.
Sixteen players scored for the Gators, including a game-high 18 points from freshman Makenzie Zidek, in an impressive 88-43 win over PSU Altoona on Friday night in the opening round of the Greg Richards ’08 Memorial Tip-off Tournament on Friday at the David V. Wise Center.
The Gators will face John Carroll, a 71-66 winner over Waynesburg, in the championship game at 6 p.m. today back at the Wise Center.
“We played really well to start,” Allegheny head coach Kate Costanzo said. “Our presses were looking really good and we were able to force a lot of turnovers and turn them into easy buckets.
“Playing that up-tempo style, we’re able to get a lot of people and we have a lot of talented freshmen this year who are definitely going to come in and help us out.”
It took a little while for the Gators to get going. In fact, the score was tied at 6-6 five minutes into the game. But once the Gators got going, it was difficult to slow them down.
PSU tied the contest at 6-6 with a basket by Alidia Strouse with 15:37 left to play in the first half. Those were the last points scored by the Lions until Karah Fissel hit the second of two free throws with 2:59 remaining.
Allegheny outscored the Lions 35-0 during that span to take a 41-6 lead. The Gators went into halftime up 47-9. The five starters and two key reserves didn’t play another minute. The entire second half they served as cheerleaders; loud ones too.
“It was amazing,” said starting forward Daryl Ford. “We were so excited that we got to get everyone in the game and that everyone scored. I don’t even know when the last time that happened at Allegheny.
“It was exciting. It was great to see everyone pumped up.”
Most importantly was the experience those freshmen gained. Despite losing just one starter from a year ago, the Gators are still working to get Erica Restich back from injury and are also currently without senior guard Becca Bajkowski, who is also injured.
So right now, three of the Gators’ five starters are either freshmen or sophomores, and the first two off the bench are freshmen.
“It’s good to build up the confidence of our underclassmen,” Ford said. “That is what we need right now. They have been really helpful at practice and at scrimmages. I think it’s going to be an exciting season.”
The Gators forced 45 turnovers in the game with 30 of those coming off steals. Freshman starter Emma Pellicano had six steals in her 14 minutes of action. Classmate Jessica Mrdjenovich had four in nine minutes of work.
Gretchen Anderson, another freshman, led the Gators with five rebounds. Zidek, who knocked down four 3-pointers, and freshman Kaitlyn Fromknecht had four boards each.
Allegheny shot 44.3 percent from the field. The Lions, who were just 4 of 23 in the first half, finished the game at 30 percent.