Coming on the heels of a historic upset over Lake Forest College, the Knox College women’s basketball team had their minds set on closing the season with back-to-back victories. Instead, archrival Monmouth extended their series win streak to 18 games, coming out on top 58-44 last Saturday.
Early on, both sides struggled offensively, as the teams combined to shoot just 27 percent from the field while turning the ball over 21 times in the first half.
One bright spot came from off the Knox bench. Freshman guard Chantal Heckman scored all of her eight points in the first half, which included draining two three pointers to keep the Prairie Fire to within a 25-18 halftime deficit.
“Chantal kept us in the game in the first half,” head coach Emily Cline said, “She had been looking good all week in practice and those two threes she made were huge.”
Heckman played a season-high 19 minutes in addition to the career high point total.
Knox got closer as the second half progressed, due in large part to the contributions of junior forwards Kelly Ricketts and Krystyna Williams.
After scoring just one point combined in the first half, Ricketts and Williams each tallied eight in the second.
“We talked about getting the ball inside more. Our guards did a solid job with entry passes, and Kelly and Krystyna did a much better job of finishing underneath. They also rebounded well, which was nice to see,” Cline said.
“It took us a while to get going,” said Ricketts. “But [Krystyna and I] realized that we were going to need to step it up if we were going to have any shot at winning.”
Ricketts and Williams finished with 11 and nine rebounds respectively, and helped pull the Prairie Fire to as close as 47-44 with four minutes left to play.
But then things turned in favor of Monmouth. The Fighting Scots closed the game on an 11-0 run, fueled primarily by Knox senior Jenny Haskell fouling out of the game.
“Obviously Jenny going out hurt, they started to press and our ball-handling took a hit. But we also went cold; nothing seemed to be going in” Cline said.
Haskell finished the game with a team-high 11 points in her final game for the Prairie Fire.
With the win, Monmouth (15-8, 13-5 MWC) clinched the second seed in the MWC tournament, while Knox (6-17, 5-13 MWC) finished the season ninth in the conference.
For the season as a whole, the general consensus was disappointing but not discouraging.
“We never reached our full potential for more than a few minutes at a time,” Ricketts said. “We just have to work, and work and continue working this off season so that that doesn’t happen again next year.”
Cline felt similarly, saying “We picked up the intensity and played our best basketball late, which was a good thing to see. But we really struggled in the middle of the season, and ninth is definitely not where we want to be. We have to work harder this offseason, and I know we will.”