Following a sub-par start to PSAC East play, Millersville University’s Women’s Basketball team got back on track with two straight dominant victories.
Heading into the season, the Lady Marauders saw Shippensburg shift from the PSAC West over to the East, and witnessed them jump directly to the top of the division’s preseason poll. They have not lived up to these expectations but still appeared to be a test that Millersville was excited to compete in.
It was the best free-throw shooting performance for the lady Marauders. They hit 17 of 19 from the charity stripe, which is a huge leap from their 60 percent season average.
“We worked hard on free throws by putting added pressure on them at practice. If they missed, they ran. We tried to present game-like pressure situations so we can improve their focus at the line,” Head Coach Mary Fleig said.
However, Millersville’s defense was the story against Shippensburg. Their defensive intensity amassed 22 turnovers and was a major factor in the victory. The lady Marauders not only pressured Shippensburg into turnovers, but they also held their opponents to their second lowest scoring total of the season in the 72-53 win.
The team was emotionally reenergized after two divisional letdowns and was extremely pumped for Shippensburg.
Perhaps no one came out as fired up as junior Aiesha Bellamy. Utilizing her hot hand, she knocked down 8 of 13 field goals and finished with a career high 17 points.
“She was excellent. She attacked on offense and drove to the basket when she got the ball. Her finishing allowed us to run man to man isolations for her,” Fleig said.
With the Shippensburg victory behind them, Millersville left the comfort of their first PSAC East win and home court to travel to Bloomsburg for yet another divisional matchup.
The matchup did not prove to be close as the lady Marauders overwhelmed their host, sprinting out to an outstanding 24-3 first half run. Turnovers were the key to sparking Millersville’s transition game in the early going. Bloomsburg did push back into the game slightly, bringing the deficit to 13 points at the half.
Millersville was able to punch out their opponents directly after the second half opened up, and they were able to pull away to a 74-56 triumph. In the second half, they did it with outside shooting. Senior guard Jenna Philo went 2-4 behind the arc while her fellow guard, junior Ashley Moyer was on fire, tickling the twine on five out of seven of her three-point field goals.
The guard play was vital to the overall team performance, yet the presence of junior forward Jenna Craig greatly hindered any ability that Bloomsburg could get back in to the one-sided affair. Craig was all over the boards in the Shippensburg game, finishing with 13 rebounds. She proved her dominance once again at Bloomsburg. After falling two points shy in her previous game, she completed the double-double, finishing with 14 points and 13 rebounds.
“She is goal-oriented and really wants it game by game,” Fleig said. “Her versatile play enables her to hit from the perimeter or inside, and she has great size and length with her arms, but rebounding takes a lot of heart. This just shows how big her heart is.”
The team is growing together and Fleig is relieved to attain her first division win. She is extremely happy about her team’s effort in the past two games.
The guards are gelling each day and they do a great job of complimenting one another. They shoot well from the outside and when one seems to be heating up, the team utilizes the hot hand and the others pick up the intensity on the defensive end.
The parody within the league this season has created a highly competitive race to the top. It is an intriguing plot line for the rest of the season.
“This season, anyone can knock off any opponent on any given day. Winning on the road is very important against any team. We need to stay focused and continue to play intense team man-to-man defense,” Fleig said.
The lady Marauders face another tough test against PSAC East foes, Cheyney, on their home floor at 6p.m. on Wednesday and again at home on Saturday Jan. 31, against Mansfield at 1p.m.