Lady Beacons Bounced From Playoffs

Lady Beacons Bounced From Playoffs

Ryan Thomas

Western Connecticut State came into Clark Athletic Center with the top-ranked defense in their Conference, allowing only 56 points per game and it showed in the first round game of the 2007 Little East Conference Women’s Basketball Tournament. For the UMass Boston Lady Beacons, their first game also proved to be their last, as they lost decisively to the Colonials of Western Connecticut 87-52.

Compared to the Lady Beacons, Western Connecticut put a much larger team on floor Tuesday night, playing four women who checked in at six feet or taller. Defending this team proved to be a tall task for UMass Boston, as the Colonials jumped out to a 23-12 lead. This run was fueled by Western Connecticut’s suffocating defense and their knack for running the fast break, which lead to numerous easy baskets for Colonials.

“We just didn’t show up [tonight],” Lady Beacons coach Shawn Renee Polk said after the game. From the get go, UMass Boston was out-hustled by Western Connecticut, as the Colonials grabbed 10 offensive rebounds in the first half that lead to nine second-chance points and killed the Lady Beacon’s confidence early.

The same swarming defense that held the Lady Beacons to 28 first-half points forced nine turnovers, blocked two shots and altered numerous others. “They’re one of the best defensive teams in the league” added Coach Polk.

On offense, the Colonials were lead by sophomore forward Stacey Roberts who scored a season-high 22 points (8-17 FG), grabbed 10 rebounds and blocked three shots, all of which were game highs.

“I think [the girls] were nervous because there were a lot of expectations” explained Coach Polk after the game, referring to the fact that Tuesday night was the girl’s first-ever home playoff game. “When you draw a home game you’re expected to win it. We’ve been winning at home all season, we just didn’t come through tonight.”

One of the major reasons the Lady Beacons were so over whelmed was due to the absence of junior guard Ashley Greene, who injured her knee in the team’s last regular season game on Saturday. “It completely changed our tempo,” Polk said. “She’s the leader on the floor, she’s the one that runs everything.”

The Beacons certainly looked lost most of the game on the floor. When the Lady Beacons had success on the floor, it was when they got the ball inside to junior center Alicia Querusio, who finished with 11 points (5-8 FG) in just 13 minutes. Her offense was quickly negated because of the Colonials well-executed fast break.

Coach Polk was disappointed with the play of junior guard LaKeisha Tucker throughout the game. When asked who her best player was this season she responded by saying it was “LaKeisha Tucker, until tonight.” Tucker’s numbers did not reflect her level play in the game, where she finished with 13 points (5-13 FG) and five rebounds. She turned the ball over three times, made mental mistakes and was careless with the ball all game.

Western Connecticut’s conference record was not great by any means, but records can be deceiving. The Colonials lost six games this season by five points or less, a factor that accounted for their less than stellar 6-8 conference record. The Colonials play great defense and it shines through in the biggest games of the season. Conference juggernaut Southern Maine can account for that, as they squeaked by Western Connecticut by only three points in each regular season meeting.

In the next round, the Colonials play Keene State, a team who owns the second-best scoring average in the league, dropping almost 70 points per game. The past shows us that good defense usually beats good offense. If the Colonials beat Keene State, they could be playing the University of Southern Maine.

When asked if the Colonials could beat the Southern Maine Huskies later in the tournament, Coach Polk said, “I would love to see them do well because they work hard.” It seems as though a dark horse candidate has emerged to challenge powerhouse USM and this game, unfortunately at the Lady Beacons expense, was their coming out party.