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Bobcats defeated in WNIT debut
Wednesday was a day of firsts for the Quinnipiac University women’s basketball team.
It was the first time the team would be playing in post-season game since the team made the leap to Division I athletics and it would be the first time the Bobcats faced Iona in the history of the program. Unfortunately, Wednesday would also mark the last game of the Bobcats’ season.
Quinnipiac (25-6) had their record-setting season ended last Wednesday as the Iona Gaels (20-13) stormed past the Bobcats 71-59 in a first round Women’s NIT match-up at the TD Banknorth Center.
With the win, the Gaels advanced to the tournaments second round for the second season in a row where they will travel to face St. John’s. In the loss the Bobcats end their season, one that saw the Bobcats post their best record in team history, win a share of the regular season NEC title and earn a top-seed in the NEC tournament.
Quinnipiac never held a lead during a game where only nine Bobcats dressed due to injuries to key team members. Backcourt stalwarts Monique Lee and Courtney Kaminski, the team’s third and fourth leader scorers respectively, were inactive for the post-season game. The 6’1 Lee and 6’3 Kaminski were sorely missed as the Bobcats were out-rebounded by the Gaels by a margin of 47-31.
“I would have loved to be healthy for once going down the stretch of the season and then see what we could do but I thought we still competed,” Bobcat head coach Tricia Fabrri said.
QU was paced by junior guard Mandy Pennewell’s team-high 15 points and a gutsy performance by Erin Kerner, who battled through leg cramps to score 13 in the losing effort.
But the Bobcats best were no match for Gaels. Iona’s Anna McClean led all players with 24 points and 18 rebounds, including 10 on the offensive glass. The Gael’s also got 12 points from freshman forward Catherine Lutz who scored all of her points off three pointers. Lutz hit four straight threes late in the first half.
In the early going, the Bobcats did all they could to hang close with the surging Gaels. Pennewell scored 11 of her 15 points in the first half as the Bobcats tried to weather the Gaels’ storm without their starting forwards.
But it was Lutz’s heroics towards the end of the first half that really jump-started the Gael’s offense. The four successive threes, all in a 1:39 span, gave the Gael’s a 12 point lead, their biggest lead of the game. A number of the three’s came from well beyond the arc.
“Iona played great,” Fabbri said, “Their threes were from 4-point land and that was really the difference.”
Iona head coach Anthony Bozella went a step further in describing his team’s and especially Lutz’s prowess from long range by saying that Lutz “shoots the ball from as far away as anyone I’ve ever coached.” Bozella went on to say that Lutz has a range that extends to the hashmarks located halfway between the three-point line and half-court.
The Gaels continued their offensive onslaught in the second half, albeit by way of a different tactic. With the Bobcats focusing heavily on perimter threats like Lutz and Lauren DeFalco, the Gaels pounded the ball inside to the 6’1 McClean who out-muscled the depleted Bobcat frontcourt and scored 17 of her 24 points in the second half.
“We were just too small inside,” Fabrri admitted. “We definitely missed some muscle in there.”
The Bobcats showed resiliency in the second half, but ultimately were derailed by Iona’s offensive play and the loss of star guard Kerner who succumbed to leg cramps late in the second half.
“It was kind of frustrating but its my job as a point guard to try to get us back in the game,” Kerner said. “When I went I just kind of felt helpless, I wanted to be with my team and try to make a comeback.”
But despite the season being over, Fabbri never lost sight of the team’s accomplishments, namely making their first appearance in post-season play.
“I think it’s a great experience for us and with the majority of the team returning think it’s a big step for the program,” Fabbri said.
“It’s huge for us to get post-season experience,” Fabbri said.
Kerner acknowledged that the team would miss the seniors but agreed with her coach.
“It’s bittersweet right now but in a couple weeks we’ll realize how great it was,” Kerner said. “It gives us something to shoot for next year.”
And though Kerner is happy with the team’s progress this season, she still knows the ultimate goal lies in the distance.
“The NIT is great but really I want to get to the NCAA Tournament,” she added.