It wasn’t the prettiest, but the Dallas Crusaders took a 57-46 road victory over Dallas Christian College in their final tune-up before conference play.
“I don’t think it was our best performance of the year but I thought we had great maturity towards the end of the game to finish it out,” head coach Greta Grothe said.
The Crusaders improved to 6-1 for the year, and they’re just two wins away from matching last season’s win total.
Dallas Christian was athletic and they pressured players on the perimeter, forcing 21 UD turnovers in the game. However, the Crusader’s defense ultimately won them the game.
“We’ve got to take care of the ball,” Grothe said, but added that she “thought we played well defensively.”
“We had a few too many turnovers combined with a low shooting percentage, which we will be working on in our next few practices,” said senior guard Holly Tonry.
The Crusaders were led by Tonry and fellow senior Seana Stoia. Stoia continued her impressive season notching another double-double, dropping 23 points and 13 rebounds. Stoia is currently averaging over 16 points and nearly 9 rebounds a game while also shooting 47% from the three-point line, leading the team among players who have taken five or more three-point attempts.
“She’s our best three point shooter right now and she’s getting it done on the block too,” Grothe said. “She’s stepped it up [this year], she worked a lot this summer.”
Unbelievable though it may sound for a third-year starter and a fourth-year contributor, Stoia has improved immensely, taking her game to another level this year. She has gone from averaging nearly 12 points and 6 rebounds a game last year to her huge early numbers. If she can maintain this level throughout the season, the Crusaders will be tough to guard.
Not lost in Coach Grothe’s eyes, however, is the work done by others to help out Stoia, particularly her frontcourt mate, junior Michelle DeCoud.
“When Michelle is such a dominant force in the key it opens up Seana more,” Grothe said, mentioning DeCoud’s ability to draw double teams and be a consistent scorer herself inside.
This was Dallas’s final matchup before beginning conference play Dec. 16 against Colorado College. The Crusaders were an abysmal 3-11 in conference play a season ago, splitting their two games against CC (a dominant win at home followed by a one-point loss in Colorado Springs). The 3-11 record is a little misleading, however, as the Crusaders lost a number of close games, including six by five points or less.
The Crusaders believe this is a different year, however.
“A lot of our games [this year] have been by a close margin so it gives us confidence to close out games,” Grothe said.
They won’t let their early season success distract them going into conference play, however.
“Conference is a different test,” Grothe said.
“Going into conference 6-1 feels pretty good,” Tonry said. “That being said our record is just a number, we must work hard in our next few practices to get this W against Colorado.”
The Crusaders have returned essentially the same team from a year ago, so they understand the challenges going forward.
“It’s been a long process,” Grothe said. “We have a lot of the same people from last year’s team so they know what it feels like to lose.”