Despite making a season high of eight three-pointers and an 18 point performance from senior point guard Jenny Haskell, the Prairie Fire women’s basketball team failed in its attempt to reach the .500 mark in conference play, losing 70-59 to archrival Monmouth last Saturday.
Knox (3-8, 2-4 MWC), jumped to an 8-4 advantage with 16:05 left to play in the first half, but the Fighting Scots gained the lead within a minute and never looked back. The Prairie Fire trailed 39-30 at half, and despite a strong effort got only as close as within 8 points of the lead the rest of the game.
Haskell, who notched a 31-point effort in a loss to Buena Vista University on Jan. 2, is now averaging 13.9 points-per-game (PPG), good for sixth in the Midwest Conference.
“Jenny is a rare talent and she plays with great intensity and desire,” head coach Emily Cline said. “When Jenny plays under control she is one of the best players in the conference. “
Haskell, the lone senior on the Knox roster, also knows her capabilities, “I just try to do my best in whatever is expected of me. Sometimes that means being a leader on the court.”
Junior forward Krystyna Williams joined Haskell in double-digits with 14 points, and sophomore forward Kristin McDonald scored 9 by knocking down 3 three-point baskets.
“Krystyna has really stepped up in the last several weeks. She is capable of great things when she plays to the best of her ability,” Cline said.
The game was also the seventh the Prairie Fire have played without junior guard Lynn Mueller (6.8 PPG, 3.25 steals per game), who suffered a knee injury in Knox’s fourth game and will likely miss the rest of the year.
“Losing Lynn was very unfortunate,” Cline said, “She is an experienced veteran and a tremendous athlete. That said, Lynn has still done a good job of leading despite her injury.”
Mueller was a primary ball-handler and defensive player for Knox and her absence was obvious against Monmouth. The team committed 24 turnovers and surrendered 15 offensive rebounds in the game.
“Our defense and rebounding have to improve if we want to compete against good teams. Also, our inability to take care of the ball is the other issue we need to address,” Cline said. “This team has tremendous potential but so far we have failed to put 40 minutes together. If we ever get all of our players playing well on the same night we can play with anyone.”
Haskell reiterated the value of consistency. “We’ve had moments of brilliance, but then there’s a drop-off, we need to put it all into one game.”
Leading Monmouth (7-3, 5-1 MWC) were forwards Maddie Nieukirk (23 points) and Justine Boone (20 points).
The Prairie Fire’s two wins over winter break were conference triumphs over Grinnell (63-62) and Lawrence (74-50).
In the one point win over the Pioneers, junior forward Kelly Ricketts (12 points), one of four players in double figures for Knox, helped seal the game by going 10-10 from the free-throw line. Against the Vikings, Knox forced 28 turnovers and received a 14 point effort from junior guard Abby Owens.
Knox also held a six point lead over Augustana College with four and a half minutes to play but fell in a heartbreaker 75-73. Despite the disappointing result, coach Cline chose to focus on the positives.
“We played really well for 36 minutes of the Augustana game; [they] were the best we have played in my short time at Knox,” Cline said. “We just weren’t able to pull the game out. Overall we have played a tough schedule, non-conference and conference and I am thrilled that we won at Grinnell; that was a big win for us.”
Blowout loss to Lake Forest
After a tight first half, the Prairie Fire were outscored 37-11 in the second half of their 77-45 loss to Lake Forest College (5-5, 3-2 MWC) on Tuesday night. Haskell led the Prairie Fire with 11 points and six rebounds.
Knox will play six of their next eight conference games at home. The next game is Friday against Beloit College (3-7, 1-4 MWC) at 5 p.m. in Memorial Gym.