By Pete Chiodo
The ferocity of the second-half comeback by the Allegheny women’s basketball team was overshadowed just slightly by the depth of the hole the Lady Gators dug for themselves in the first half. It all added up to an 89-81 victory for visiting North Coast Athletic Conference opponent Kenyon on Saturday at the David V. Wise Center.
“In this conference, you can’t play 30 minutes of basketball. You have to play the full 40,” said Allegheny head coach Kate Costanzo. “And I am very proud of the way we responded after the half and came out strong. ... It’s disappointing to come out on the losing end. But that’s how basketball is played. It was a game of runs, up-tempo, both teams played hard. Hopefully we’ll learn from it and get better.”
Allegheny (12-7, 6-4 NCAC) started off the game strong, hitting four of five field goal attempts, including three of four treys, to bolt out to an 11-4 lead two and a half minutes in. Marina Scarantino hit a trey. Rachel Vigliotti hit another. Makenzie Zidek subbed in and immediately knocked down a triple.
After that, however, the Gators went sub-zero. They made just six more field goals through the remaining 17-plus minutes of the half, shooting just 25 percent (6-for-24) the rest of the way, including 1-for-11 from the arc.
“I was not happy with our production in the first half,” Costanzo said. “We started off the game great then we got out of playing together. And we didn’t defend them well at all.”
That opened the door wide for Kenyon. The Ladies (11-7, 6-4) finished the first half shooting 63.3 percent from the floor (19-for-30). Senior guard Maureen Hirt made eight of nine field goals, three of four from downtown, and finished the half with 20 points.
“When Maureen shoots like that, it kind of gives the rest of the kids the greenlight,” said Kenyon head coach Suzanne Helfant. “I think they follow her lead. And she was on fire.”
Kenyon also enjoyed a substantial edge in rebounding in the first half, grabbing 23 caroms to Allegheny’s 13.
At the break, Kenyon appeared to be running away with the contest, leading 50-35.
The Gators would not let the Ladies leave town with an easy win, however.
For the second half, “We got back to doing what we do best defensively, our full-court presses,” said Costanzo. “We were playing hard in it, we were forcing some turnovers. We were boxing out at the other end, which was giving us our transition scoring opportunities.”
Those efforts paid off handsomely. Inside the 17-minute mark of the second half, Allegheny embarked on a 16-2 scoring run that trimmed Kenyon’s lead to 59-54. Emma Pellicano scored the final four points, drawing a foul while snatching an offensive rebound, and later banking in a putback the next time down the court.
Kenyon got hot again, however, and brought it back out to a 16-point game at 78-62 with about six minutes to play.
Yet, the Gators clamped down once more. This time, they outscored the Ladies 19-4, whittling their lead down to one point — 82-81 — with about two minutes to play.
A huge comeback appeared to be in the offing.
But Kenyon’s Meredith Williams had other ideas. Back at the Ladies’ end of the court, Williams dropped in a momentum-killing 18-foot jumper from the corner that made it 84-81 with 1:39 to go.
“That shot that Meredith Williams made in the corner — and stroked it, she didn’t even think twice about it — was for us a really good confidence booster,” said Helfant. “Because we just needed to make a basket. And once we got the tide turned back our way, you could see that we were playing with confidence.”
The Gators would not get back in the hoop over the final minute and a half. Hirt sealed things up for the Ladies, going four-for-four from the free throw line. She would end the day with a 33-point, 10-rebound double-double. She was 11-for-16 from the floor and eight-for-eight from the line.
Sidney Cera added 16 points off the bench. Williams’ final bucket gave her 12 points for the game. She also had 11 boards for the double-double. And Maggie Boelter added 11 points.
For Allegheny, Vigliotti had 24 points and led the team with five steals. Pellicano finished with a 20-point, 11-rebound double-double. Zidek scored 14 points and Kendall Hoffman scored 11.