Prairie Fire bounce back from 83-34 loss to St. Norbert to compete valiantly in 77-48 loss to Ripon.
The road to victory this past week has been particularly bumpy for the Knox College women’s basketball team. After losing to rival Monmouth Fighting Scots on Jan. 13, the ladies looked to bounce back with two games in two days, both against conference foes, with St. Norbert coming to town for a Friday night game, then Ripon College the next day for a matinee.
The Green Knights of St. Norbert, while not the powerhouse their male counterparts are, still came to town with a record good enough for second in the conference. It would be a tough battle for the Prairie Fire, but they were ready to get it back in gear.
Knox came out strong, striking first and second to get up by four quickly. Sophomore Amanda Sicoli, after a fine night of shooting against Monmouth a few nights previously, was in the starting five and hit the first shot of the game. Junior Kate Moon hit the second, but St. Norbert came back, hitting a three and two foul shots to take the lead. Sicoli nailed another one to get the lead back and the two teams traded the lead once more as the Knights hit a jumper before senior Hayle Gosnell got it back. That would be the last lead change of the game, as Norbert began to take off and go up by 13 points with ten minutes left and closed the half up by 28. The Knights’ defense rose to hold Knox to only 14 points as they poured in 42.
The second half was more of the same, and though the Fire were able to increase their percentage from the field to 34, St. Norbert shot 51 percent while turning it over only 12 times in the game. Knox was given few chances to make up the deficit, and ultimately, the clock ran down with the final score 83-34. The high scorer for the Fire was Moon with eight on 4-for-11 shooting, and both she and fellow junior Erin Navolio pulled down four rebounds. The Fire were able to go to the free-throw line only five times, shooting 50 percent, while the Green Knights went to the line 28 times, making 17. Though involved in a one-sided affair after the first few minutes, the Prairie Fire never slowed down, a testament to their gumption and devotion to their team and school.
After the drubbing from the Green Knights the previous evening, the team was determined to turn it around and host the Ripon College Red Hawks, who came in with a record of 6-6, 3-2 in the Midwest Conference (MWC). It offered the Fire a chance to make a jump in the standings once again.
The first half was as close as any played all season and neither team held a lead of more than seven through the first 15 minutes. With 1:26 left in the half Knox tied it up and the team was looking like it could have the endurance to pull off the upset. Then Ripon went 1-for-2 from the charity stripe off a foul; a Knox turnover led to another Ripon basket, and following a Gosnell foul, the Red Hawks held a five-point lead going into the half. Then as the clock ran down to close out the half, a three was lofted by the Hawks, and dropped in like a miracle. It gave Ripon an eight-point lead and more importantly, tore the wind from the sails of the Fire.
“We got tired a little bit, and they hit the big three at the end there,” said Prairie Fire head coach Emily Cline, and as the team went into the locker room, a silence hung over the gymnasium.
The second half started off with Ripon on fire and Knox unable to answer back. Though they gave it their all, the Fire were run over by the Hawks, who increased their lead to 20 in less than six minutes.
“They turned it on,” Cline said, “and we turned the ball over a lot, lost our composure a lot. They’re a good team.”
The Fire committed 28 turnovers to Ripon’s 14, and though they moved the ball well to rack up 15 assists, the Hawk defense was too much, as ultimately the Fire lost, 77-48. The high scorer was freshman Lynn Mueller, who had 11 points to go with three assists. Moon had seven points to go along with five rebounds. The Fire closed the weekend out with a record of 3-10, 1-6 in the MWC.
Though depressed by another loss, the team looked better than the stats showed and Cline’s spirits were buoyed.
“We competed, which we hadn’t, we hadn’t competed as hard as I’d like,” she said. “I think we competed harder today. We ran our offense better and we played better defense. I think we did everything better today.”