CSS Basketball’s Week in Review

Tags: Kennedy, Gray, Thompson

Andrew Naslund
anaslund@css.edu

The College of St. Scholastica basketball teams both played only one game last week, with the women’s team traveling down to Winona last Wednesday to take on the Saint Mary’s University Cardinals, and the men’s team hosting the University of Wisconsin-Eau Claire Blugolds the following day. Both teams were defeated, as the girls lost by a score of 53-76, while the guys suffered a one-point loss with a final score of 74-75.

The Saints women’s team went down to Winona boasting a two-game winning streak, but the Cardinals took a commanding 11-2 lead right from the start. The Saints would fight back, but it seemed like Saint Mary’s matched every run that the Saints went on. The poor first quarter for the Saints ended with a score of 23-7, but they managed to bounce back to trim the deficit down to nine by halftime with the scoreboard reading 35-26. In the second half, however, the Cardinals simply had too many scoring runs, and they eventually broke it open by the end of the third quarter. As a team, the Cardinals shot 58.8% from the field, whereas the Saints made only 40.4% of their field goals on the night. The Saints were also severely outrebounded, as SMU grabbed 40 boards compared to CSS’s 22 rebounds.

It did not help the Saints that one of their leading scorers, Michala Walther, went down with an ankle injury very early into the game after scoring five points. Holly Vankempen, a senior from Elbow Lake, Minnesota, managed to respond well to her teammate’s injury, as she scored a career-high 21 points on an efficient 9 of 15 from the field. The Saints also received help from freshman guard Kaylee Kennedy, who made five of her eight shots to score a career-high 14 points, 12 of which came in the second quarter. Kennedy was also a constant pest on the defensive side, ending the day with six steals.

Starters Emelia Miner and Danielle Cieluch each pitched in three points for the Saints, while off the bench Rashonna Thomas scored five points and came away with four steals. Taylor Nowling from Mora, Minnesota, rounded out the scoring for the Saints with two points. While the Saints would have liked to come away with the win, they believe there is a lesson to be learned with this game.

“We started off the game really slow, and just were not able to get our momentum going,” freshman Kennedy said. “Going forward, we are really focusing on mental toughness and always being
ready to play and playing to our potential at all times.”

While the women’s team suffered a blowout down south, the men’s team lost in dramatic fashion here in Duluth. Coming into the game with a 2-3 record, the boys were hoping to stretch their
win streak to three and get back to .500, but sometimes the ball just bounces the wrong way.

Going into Thursday’s game, CSS previously had never beaten the Blugolds, as UW-Eau Claire had won each of the last sixteen matchups. The Saints were not by any means outmatched in this one, however, as the game saw six ties and 11 changes in the lead in a very close matchup. With two minutes left in the second half, UW-Eau Claire trailed CSS by four, but with the help of two unanswered shots, one of which a very deep three pointer with nine seconds left, the Blugolds grabbed a 73-72 lead. The Saints took a timeout, and managed to get the ball into the hands of their junior scoring machine Brandon Newman, who went coast-to-coast and laid it off the glass for a 74-73 lead with 3.4 seconds left. The game saw yet another timeout, before Eau Claire heaved it down the court. In a sea of players, the ball got deflected, but somehow found a Blugold at the top of the key, who took two steps and laid it in as the buzzer went off. 75-74 Final.

Throughout the game, the Saints saw contributions from up and down the lineup. Leading the scoring charge from off the bench was Sam Thompson, who had a career day with 17 points. Newman was solid yet again, scoring 16 points on 62.5% shooting. The seniors on the team had nice nights as well, with Zach Dahlman scoring 11 points, Joe Stark walking away with nine, and Dylan Zimmerman scoring six while grabbing eight rebounds. Connor Gray had a solid night in the paint with four points and nine rebounds, while point guard Nate Weets finished with five points and five assists. Freshman Jarod Wilken chipped in six points as well. While it was truly a tough way to lose a basketball game, the boys are keeping their heads up.

“It’s heartbreaking anytime you lose that way. But it’s a lesson learned,” Gray said. “We had some opportunities throughout the game that we didn’t capitalize on and didn’t put ourselves at a good enough position at the end there.”

Sam Thompson echoed his teammate’s words and stressed the importance of moving on.

“The Eau Claire game was definitely a tough loss, although it makes our team that much hungrier to win our conference games,” Thompson explained. “If we don’t win the conference, it will be a bad year in our eyes.”

Both the CSS men’s and women’s basketball teams will begin their UMAC with games in Superior on Wednesday, Dec. 6, and at home on Saturday, Dec. 9.