Judging by the first few minutes of play, the Knox women’s basketball team seemed well on its way to a solid victory over Illinois College. But after a serious swing in momentum, the Prairie Fire were left lamenting a 74-56 home loss to the Lady Blues.
Early on, senior guard Jenny Haskell was in complete control of the game. At one point, Haskell scored 11 straight points for Knox, helping the Prairie Fire jump to a 25-11 lead with nine minutes left to play in the first half.
But things turned when juniors Kystyna Williams and Kelly Ricketts both had to go to the bench with three fouls. Without their two primary post players, Knox was forced to go with a smaller lineup, leaving them unable to keep up the defensive pressure that had built the lead.
“Our game-plan was to press a lot,” junior guard Sara Johnson said, “We knew their two guards were not the greatest ball-handlers, but with [Williams and Ricketts] out, we did not have anyone to guard their best athletes at that point.”
With Williams and Ricketts out, the Lady Blues pounded Knox underneath and got back into the game via a 14-2 run. At half, Illinois College had come all the way back to tie Knox 33-33.
Knox jumped out to a 39-33 lead at the start of the second half, but Williams was soon whistled for her fourth foul. After Williams took a seat, the Lady Blues started to score inside.
Lady Blues forwards Carrie Wahlberg and Rachel Macon shot a combined 8-9 with 20 points in the second half.
But even with Williams, their leading rebounder, on the bench, the Prairie Fire hung with the Lady Blues on the glass in the second half, grabbing seven offensive rebounds in the period.
Knox was ultimately doomed by cold shooting. The Prairie Fire went ice cold in the second half, and though they shot 29 field goals to IC’s 21 in the second half, the Prairie Fire shot 21 percent. IC shot 52 percent in the second half.
Frustrated with both the officiating and the flow of the game, Prairie Fire head coach Emily Cline was called for two technical fouls in a span of thirty seconds, resulting in her ejection from the game.
“It was tough to see that happen,” Johnson said, “We kind of lost direction after that because we did not know when or when not to foul.”
This confusion led to Illinois College (10-7, 8-4 MWC) scoring 10 of its final 14 points on free throws, icing the game for good. The Lady Blues finished the game on a 63-31 run.
The loss came in spite of an outstanding effort from Haskell, who scored 26 points, had 10 steals, and nine rebounds—one board short of a triple-double. For her efforts, Haskell was named Prairie Fire Performer of the Week.
Haskell now leads the conference with 37 total steals, and is tied for first with 3.1 steals per game. Haskell is also fourth in the MWC in scoring.
Knox (5-12, 4-8 MWC) was scheduled to play Grinnell College (6-10, 5-7 MWC) this past Tuesday. The game was rescheduled for Monday, Feb. 14 at 5 p.m.
The Prairie Fire now sit in eighth place in the conference, ahead of only Ripon and Lawrence. Knox will need to finish the season strong to have any chance of reaching the Midwest Conference tournament.
The Prairie Fire will have a chance to improve on their lackluster conference record this weekend when they host a two game homestand.
On Friday, the Prairie Fire will take on Carroll University (11-5, 7-4 MWC) at 5 p.m. in Memorial Gym. When the teams met in December, Carroll won 71-59.
On Saturday, Knox will host Ripon College (5-13, 4-9 MWC) at 2 p.m. Ripon won the first meeting 64-49 on Dec. 3.