Sports / The Prairie Fire / February 5, 2009

Women’s basketball falters again

The Knox College women’s basketball team squandered two strong individual performances by junior Erin Navolio and freshman Krystyna Williams in a 0-2 effort for the week. The women traveled to Monmouth College on Saturday night, losing 85-55, and to Illinois College, falling by a score of 75-38. The two conference losses drop the Prairie Fire to 4-14 overall and 1-10 in Midwest Conference play, mathematically eliminating the Fire from Midwest Conference Tournament contention.

In Saturday’s game, Knox started sluggishly out of the gates, with the Scots jumping out to a quick 22-5 lead nine minutes into the game. Fire coach Emily Cline called a timeout to slow the Monmouth momentum, and Knox showed signs of life in a 6-2 run of its own, with two points apiece coming from Williams, Navolio, and junior Kate Moon.

“I just tried to work on being more relaxed and to not focus on doing too much,” Navolio said about breaking out of a recent mini-scoring slump. “Once conference started, I was a little nervous, but now I’m letting the game come to me.”

However, as has been the story for much of the season, Knox could not maintain the momentum they gained in the scoring streak. Turnovers on three straight Fire possessions got the Scots right back on track. A 9-0 Monmouth run took the game to a 33-11 score, and the Fire never bounced back offensively in the first half. Three points by Williams, two more from Navolio, and a 1-2 effort at the line from recent sophomore transfer Claire Anderson weren’t enough to spark the Fire, and the Scots entered the locker room with a 45-17 advantage. Monmouth scored 22 points off Fire turnovers to Knox’s zero.

Both teams traded buckets to start the second half, with Fire points coming from two baskets from Moon and a three-pointer from Navolio making the score 51-24, but the Scots again took control with a 9-2 run that effectively put the game out of the grasp of the Fire. The Scots’ lead grew to as high as 39 points before the Prairie Fire crept slightly back, but couldn’t get any closer than 30 over the final five minutes of play.

For the Fire, Navolio and Williams led the team in scoring with 14 points apiece. Moon added 13 with a 6-8 effort from the field. Moon and Navolio each pulled down six rebounds, and Williams snatched five boards. Knox cut down on its turnovers, handing it over 21 times, but only forced 11 Monmouth turnovers. However, the Knox bench outplayed its counterpart, outscoring the Scots’ bench 27-15 for the game.

“We just have to be under control and make smarter passes,” Navolio said. “Coach set a goal for us to cut down on [turnovers], and we’re working a lot with no-dribble drills in practice. It’s more of a relaxing thing against the other team’s pressure.”

In Tuesday night’s game, however, the Fire took a small step backward in bench play and a larger step backward in the way of turnovers. In the 75-38 defeat to the Lady Blues, Knox forced just 11 more turnovers and committed 28 of its own. The Lady Blues scored 32 points off Knox’s turnovers to the Prairie Fire’s zero, and got 22 points off the bench to Knox’s 16.

Illinois College began with a 7-0 run in the first two minutes before Knox returned to even basketball following a timeout. Cline’s club went on a 6-2 run and brought the score closer with three-pointers from Navolio and freshman Lynn Mueller, but the Lady Blues pulled away with ease with a 24-4 run, and led by 21 at the intermission.

The two teams played even basketball again for the first five minutes of the second half, with each team scoring seven points. Knox got four points on two field goals from Navolio during this stretch. However, I.C. put the game out of reach on another 19-6 run over the next six minutes. The Lady Blues increased their lead to as much as 40 before finally winning by the 37-point final.

The Fire got another strong individual performance from Williams, who put up a double-double with 10 points and 12 rebounds. Navolio scored 10 more for the Fire, which also received a seven-board effort from junior Ali Hidden.

Although the Fire women are now mathematically out of the postseason hunt, they still have some winnable games as they enter the home stretch. Knox closes out its season with four of five games at home, including this weekend’s homecoming matchups against Beloit (Friday, 5 p.m.) and Lawrence (Saturday, 2 p.m.).

“We’re focusing on the turnovers and our offense,” Navolio said about how the Fire will prepare for the Buccaneers and Vikings this weekend. “Although the score didn’t show it, we did a really good job defensively against I.C. We need to get the ball across half court and run our offense. We beat Lawrence once already. Now we just need to do it again.

“Homecoming is a great opportunity for us to show that no matter what our record is, we’re a competitive team. This season is the most fun one I’ve had at Knox yet, and I hope people get to see just how hard we’re working and how much progress we’ve made.”

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