- By Evan Merrill Sports Editor
VINCENNES, Ind. -- Wabash Valley College women's basketball coach Jack Trosper knew his team had a challenge ahead of them against Gulf Coast State in the Vincennes Classic. What may have came to Trosper's delight in the challenge is just how his team excelled against the No. 3 team in Junior College Divison I in their 68-65 victory over Gulf Coast State on Friday in the Vincennes Classic.
The Lady Warriors took it to the highly ranked Commodores early and often and eventually withstood a few Gulf Coast runs through the course of the nailbiter game.
The two teams were trading each other's best shots for much of the first quarter, as the two teams remained in a dog fight. WVC emerged with an 18-16 lead at the end of the quarter.
"Really, really good team." coach Trosper said. "Great players, great length, great athleticism. We challenged our guards to get up in them, make them as uncomfortable as possible because we knew they were great players, we knew they could get their shot off at any time, so we just tried to make things as difficult as possible for them and we did a great job of that tonight. I thought the girls executed the gameplan great, I thought they were in the right spots defensively and I thought they disrupted their offense enough for us to pull off the victory."
Lady Warrior Jordyn Dawson scored six straight points early in the second quarter to help stretch the Lady Warrior lead to 29-20. They increased the margin to as high as 13 in the first half and brought a 39-28 lead to the break.
The Lady Commodores hit a pair of threes after the half to quickly trim the deficit to 39-34. The Lady Warriors withstood the early Lady Commodore's runs and expanded the lead to 52-38 after another steal and transition layup. WVC's defense was especially spectacular in this game, forcing 27 turnovers by Gulf Coast and stealing the ball 13 times to create transition opportunities.
A play at the end of the third quarter just about summarized the day for Wabash Valley. Lady Warrior Marie Hunter stepped up to the line for a pair of free throws after getting foul on a drive with 1.4 seconds left in the quarter. Hunter made the first, but missed the second -- the second somehow found its way into the hands of WVC's Julie Luna for the offensive rebound. Luna quickly passed it back to Hunter for a smooth floater to end the quarter. It was a remarkable turn of events that proved critical late.
"Sometimes you need a little luck, that was definitely luck for her to get a rebound over that girl there and for us to get a basket," coach Trosper said. "We'll take all the luck we can get playing a team like that."
Though they were outrebounded 37-31 in this game, opportunities such as Luna's helped pave the way a seemingly perfect recipe -- that and keeping the long Commodores off the offensive glass.
Despite a 65-54 WVC lead with four minutes remaining, the No. 3 ranked Lady Commodores weren't going down without a fight. Maintaining a 67-62 lead with 36 seconds left, Lady Warrior Keya Patton was fouled on a three. Unfortunately Patton converted just one of the three free throws, setting the score at 68-62.
Gulf Coast quickly came down and hit a three to reduce the lead to 68-65 and fouled WVC to send them to the line with 19 seconds left. Dazha Congleton missed the free throws, giving Gulf Coast one last opportunity -- an opportunity that the Lady Warriors sniffed out and denied, holding onto the nailbiter victory.
Though they didn't shoot particularly well, 34.8 percent from the field, 57 percent from the free throw line, their defense was exceptional in this one. They denied many of the Commodores' opportunities with their pressure defense and a zone they switched in and out of.
The game proved to be a huge statement by Wabash Valley and their first year coach, Jack Trosper. They have a quick turnaround, coming on Saturday, Nov. 17 at noon in the Classic, this time against State Fair. They may have some tired legs with the short notice game, but the excitement of this victory may carry for quite some time.
"We knew they were going to be good, we knew we were going to be tested and I thought our girls answered the bell well and rose to the occasion of the game," coach Trosper said. "We knew it had a lot riding on it with them being ranked so high. We just tried to focus on that and not worry about the outside. . . .,18 hours before our next game is going to be difficult. We're going to try to rest and get as much fluid [in us] as we can and try to get some energy and be ready to go tomorrow."
WVC -- 18 21 16 13 -- 68
GC -- 16 12 14 23 -- 65