The Knox women’s basketball team alleviated some problems that had plagued the team for most of the season in a weekend split with Beloit and Lawrence amidst Homecoming festivities. The Fire came out strong against the Buccaneers (13-7, 10-3) Friday, but faded in the second half, falling 78-51, before bouncing back to take Saturday’s game with the Vikings, 59-48 behind a double-double from junior Erin Navolio.
In Friday night’s matchup, Beloit scored first, with a pair of free throws a minute and a half into the game, but Knox recovered to take a 4-2 lead on back-to-back jumpers by junior Kate Moon. Knox lost the lead, but regained it with 13 minutes to play on a three-point play by freshman Krystyna Williams. A Navolio field goal a minute later gave Knox a 16-13 lead, but that was the last lead the Fire would see. Over the next seven minutes of play, Beloit went on a 16-2 run to take a 29-18 lead, and eventually entered the half leading 35-27 after some solid inside play from Williams and junior Ali Hidden. Moon also added four more points on jumpers down the stretch.
“We had a new outlook,” freshman point guard Lynn Mueller said of the Fire correcting their first half struggles Friday night. “We realized that we only have five or six games left and wanted to end the season well. This was the most excited we’d been to play a game the whole year, with it being our first home game in a few weeks.”
However, in the second half, Beloit put the Fire’s hopes out quickly with a 26-4 run in the first 10 minutes of the period. The lead reached as high as 30 before the final buzzer sounded with a 78-51 Beloit victory.
“In the second half, I just think we got a little comfortable with where we were,” Mueller said.
For the Fire, Moon (5-of-7 from the field) and Williams each scored ten points in the loss. Williams also added a team-high six rebounds. Navolio scored eight points before fouling out late in the game. The Fire had only 18 turnovers and forced 21 Buccaneer turnovers.
“Coach has made it a point in practice to take care of the ball,” Mueller said. “We do scrimmage work to correct turnovers and if we get too many, we run.”
In Saturday’s Homecoming game, the outcome was totally different for the Fire. The game remained scoreless until Laura Aerts put Lawrence on the board with 16:30 left in the first half. Knox stormed back with five unanswered points on a Mueller three-pointer and a Williams bunny.
Lawrence would take the lead briefly at the 13-minute mark, but the Fire conducted a 9-0 run to take a seven-point lead, highlighted by a three-pointer from sophomore Claire Anderson and four points from Navolio. Lawrence again took a one-point lead with four minutes to play in the half, and both teams went scoreless for the next two minutes. However, the Fire scored five unanswered points to gain a 24-20 advantage at intermission.
Knox struck first in the second half on a three-pointer from senior Hayle Gosnell. The teams traded baskets until the 12-minute mark, when Lawrence embarked on a 10-2 run to pull within two. However, Coach Emily Cline effectively used a timeout to break the Viking momentum, and Knox stormed out of the brief break on an 8-0 run to eventually regain the ten point advantage at 49-39 with 3:20 left. Knox’s lead would reach 12 after two Navolio free throws in the final minute before Knox would eventually settle on a 59-48 Homecoming victory.
“I thought it was awesome since my dad went to Knox,” Mueller said of the Homecoming victory. “Being able to play well and win in front of a lot of people that know me was awesome. We were predicted to finish last in conference, and by beating Lawrence twice, it showed that we were better than they thought we’d be.”
Navolio led the Fire with 17 points and led all rebounders with 11. Williams again hit double-figures with ten points. Mueller narrowly missed a double-double of her own with nine points and eight assists. Gosnell and Moon rounded out the starting five with eight and six points, respectively.
Knox will have completed a game with Grinnell College by press time, but will return to action on the road Saturday against Lake Forest. The Fire will play for the final time this season, at home on Feb. 18 against Illinois College.
“Obviously, we want to finish with a win, but we want to finish knowing we did the best we could and leave everything out on the court,” Mueller said. “Whatever happens here will push us forward into the off-season, so anything positive will help. We also want Hayle [Gosnell] to have a good end to the season, since she is our only senior.”