November 27, 2007

Women’s hoops wins four in a row

After tapering off at the end of last winter, it’s been full steam ahead into 2007–2008 for women’s basketball.

Again showing off their mix of proven veterans and still-developing young talent, the Maroons claimed more tournament hardware this weekend after winning the UW–Eau Claire Thanksgiving Showcase. First dispatching Edgewood College (2–2) 66–45, the squad won the championship against host Eau Claire (3–1) 56–49. The pair of wins boosted Chicago to a 4–0 mark on the year and extended the team’s winning streak in non-conference matchups to 30 games.

That stretch of victories goes back to the 2004–2005 campaign, and keeping it alive today has been a full-team effort. Some key players to put in big contributions have been fourth-years Nofi Mojidi and Nicaya Rapier along with second-years Molly Hackney and Jamie Stinson, the tournament’s MVP.

“I think Jamie really stepped up as a leader for our team,” Hackney said. “She is a strong presence on the court and did a great job of organizing the team and settling everyone’s nerves.”

“Winning MVP was a bit of a surprise,” Stinson said. “Our hard work and our toughness won that tournament for us, and it feels good to come away with a win that was a true team effort.”

Opening the weekend, the Maroons breezed by Edgewood Friday, Stinson leading the way with a career-high 12 points in the game. The point guard was perfect from the field, sinking all five of her shots, which included hitting both of her attempts from beyond the arc.

Heading into the contest, Chicago knew that it would have to find a way to contain third-year forward Megan Scheele, the Eagles’ preseason All-American. Scheele took 17 of Edgewood’s 45 field goal attempts and posted a game-high 19 points, but her one-woman show couldn’t keep pace with the Maroons.

Hackney combined with Stinson to do the most damage. The forward notched 11 points while pulling down eight rebounds and swiping a steal. All in all, the South Siders sent 14 players onto the court with 12 adding to the score.

“We have so many great players on the floor together and everyone contributes,” Stinson said.

Slated for the championship game Saturday, the team would be tested a bit more by the tournament’s hosts. Although three Maroons ended the game in double-digit point figures, the squad spent most of the match trying to keep a hold of its lead.

With six points in the opener, Mojidi had been relatively quiet against the Eagles, but the guard was back in form against Eau Claire. Mojidi notched six points in the first half alone, paving the way for a team-high 14 in the contest and setting the Maroons up for an early edge on the scoreboard.

A lot of back-and-forth action prevented Chicago from pulling too far ahead of its hosts, and things started to get dicey for the squad when third-year guard Heidi Arciszewski nailed a jumper with 47 seconds remaining in the half. The shot gave the Blugolds a 22–21 advantage, their only and brief lead of the match, as Stinson answered with a layup that put the South Siders back in charge at 23–22 going into the half.

Returning from the break, the Maroons started to put the game away with Rapier leading the team in a 9–0 run in the opening 3:06 minutes of play, quickly turning around the first period’s struggles and giving Chicago a sizeable 32–22 lead. The forward tallied 6 of those 9 points and finished the game with 11.

“I think our nerves got to us a little bit [at the beginning] so we just talked about calming down and playing our game,” Hackney said. “We felt as though we didn’t play to our potential during the first half so we wanted to come out in the second half and execute.”

Chicago continued to drain buckets after the early burst, building up the margin to as high as 13 points at 47–34 with 5:37 left on the clock. That was enough to keep the Maroons in front even as the Blugolds began to chip away in the last few minutes. At the final buzzer, the South Siders had held off their hosts 56–49, locking up the championship crown.

Coming off back-to-back tournament titles, the Maroons have plenty of momentum for their showdown with UW–Whitewater (3–0) at Ratner tomorrow. Strong starts are nothing new for this squad, which kicked off last season on a 20–0 roll.

“I think both last season and this season so far we have taken things one game at a time,” Stinson said. “It would be great to look ahead and hope for a great record like the one we started out with last year, but our goal every day is to win the next game we have.”

“This year our team is a little older and wiser,” Hackney added. “We are taking it one game at a time and developing an identity that hopefully will be able to carry us through UAA play and into the tournament.”