It’s been a rough conference season for the University of Dallas women’s basketball team, but on Saturday they made sure it would continue another week as they beat Colorado College 71-63 for the final spot in the Southern Collegiate Athletic Conference (SCAC) tournament.
“We were determined to beat Colorado because we didn’t want to be done with our season just yet,” senior guard Holly Tonry said.
The game was a must-win to make it to the tournament. If UD had lost, there would have been a three-way tie for the final spot in the tournament, determined by a coin flip.
“I feel like when we have to win, the team pulls together and gets the job done,” head coach Greta Grothe said.
It was senior day for the Crusaders as well — the last time the seniors would play at home at the Maher Center.
“The girls were a little more emotionally invested because it was senior night, and that really helped us,” Grothe said.
An energetic crowd attended to send off the seven seniors.
“I thought that was our best crowd of the year,” Grothe said.
“We had so many great fans cheering us on which definitely fueled our energy,” Tonry said.
Tonry had perhaps the best game of her career, stuffing the stat sheet by dropping 24 points, dishing out seven assists, pulling down six rebounds as a point guard and even adding four steals and two blocks. One of her most impressive stats of her night, however, was the number of turnovers: zero. As a team, the typically turnover-prone Crusaders limited themselves to 12.
“When Holly scores 24 points and doesn’t turn the ball over, that makes a huge difference,” Grothe said.
The beginning of the game wasn’t great for the Crusaders, as they struggled at times to guard the three-point line and couldn’t get the ball to post players Seana Stoia and Michelle DeCoud, who have been by far their biggest offensive assets in the season.
Tonry was able to keep them in the game with 14 first half points, including two three-point field goals. She also had success driving to the basket off of the pick and roll. The five-foot-five Tonry was able to get scoop shots that went underneath everyone’s arms before going up high off the backboard to fall through the hoop, leaving onlookers bewildered.
Despite her efforts, the Crusaders trailed 29-30 at half.
“At half I really kind of called people out with [their scoring] numbers, and then they turned around and stepped up,” Grothe said.
The third quarter was back and forth for the most part, until Colorado grabbed a 46-43 lead with 1:44 remaining in the quarter. It was at that point that the Crusaders would make their run, scoring the final eight points of the quarter and stretching it into a 13-2 run early in the fourth.
The Crusaders never relinquished the lead in the fourth quarter, with DeCoud and Stoia dominating, scoring 14 of the team’s final 20 fourth-quarter points. The team finished with four scorers in double digits. In addition to Tonry’s 24, Stoia had 16, DeCoud had 13, and fellow senior Caitlyn Worry added 12.
“We had multiple players in double digits which makes winning that much better,” Tonry said.
The Crusaders will now prepare to take on the Austin College Kangaroos in the first round of the SCAC tournament on Friday, Feb. 24 at Southwestern University in Georgetown, Texas While the Crusaders dropped both regular season matchups with the ‘Roos, both games were close.
“It’s hard to beat a team three times,” Grothe said with optimism. “I’m excited about this weekend because it gives us a chance to prove ourselves against a good team.”
It’s win or go home for the rest of the season. If the Crusaders are able to beat Austin on Friday, they will take on Texas Lutheran University (TLU) in the semifinals of the tournament. If they can beat TLU and win in the finals, they will automatically qualify for the NCAA tournament. The game against Austin is scheduled to tip off at 2 p.m.