UMB Finished a Runner-up in the Tip-Off Classic

UMB Finished a Runner-up in the Tip-Off Classic

Krisada Sowsuwannamas

Shun Hasegawa

The hundred-plus faithful fans gathered at the Clark Athletic Center were entertained by repeated rallies by the UMB women’s basketball team, despite a tight 60-65 loss in the final of the fourth annual Tip-Off Classic on Saturday, November 20. One day prior, UMB squashed Green Mountain College 74-35 in the first round of the four-team tournament.

After falling behind, 45-55, the Beacons resiliently bounced back to be as close as 60-61 before the home team succumbed to Simmons College.

The Beacons seventh-year head coach Shawn R. Polk recollected the result of the season-opener, “It’s a tough loss. We worked hard to win this game and played a very good game. But someone has to win and someone has to lose. And unfortunately, we had to lose today.”

On a positive note, UMB sophomore Dennis B. Ridge led the team with 20 points with three rebounds and a couple of assists, along with freshman Jennifer Bennett who recorded nine rebounds with six points and four assists. Freshman Loren Turner marked a promising collegiate debut by scoring 15 points, including a trio of three-pointers, all in only 16 minutes.

Simmons College’s Kristen Lucek helped her team’s first-appearance triumph of the tournament with her astonishing 21-point and 19-rebound contribution which won her the MVP prize. Jennifer Caron tied with her teammate with 21 points hitting 10 free throws for 12. The Sharks won the first round over Framingham State College 47-31 to proceed to the final. UMB had a literally brilliant “tip-off” of the 2004-5 season with a 15-foot jumper by Bennett and sophomore Kristen Reske’s three-pointer to be up 5-0, a mere 84 seconds into the game. Simmons College promptly picked up the rhythm and scored 16 straight points to pass the hosts easily.

Polk was not too happy with the onset. “I think we started the game a little too slow. We weren’t mentally ready to come out and play well from the top to the bottom,” she said. The Beacons reacted quickly to ease the skipper’s worries by hitting five three-pointers to complete a 22-5 spurt, leading 27-21. Simmons College wasted no time evening the score and finished the first half being barely behind, 31-30.

To open the second half, the visiting team had an 18-10 run against the Polk’s second-unit which was culminated by Lucek’s basket count to widen the gap, 45-55.

The Sharks head coach Tony Price, however, could never be so optimistic. “I knew that this game was not going to be an easy one. UMass Boston is a tough opponent. They are athletic and has a great technique,” Price commented.

The Beacons proved Price’s fears to be true. Ridge, with her improbable leaning-back jumper from just outside the paint, helped a 15-8 spurt to chase closely, 60-63.

“We definitely tried hard to win.” Said Ridge, “We were behind [the Sharks] sometimes. But we always battled back. It was a kind of rush.”

With the game on the line with just under a minute and a half to go, the trailing Beacons concentrated the balls on their top three-point executors, junior Elmina Darville, Reske, and Turner. But they all missed the four game-tying attempts as the Sharks added a fatal pair of free throws to cap the tense battle at 60-65.

Price said, with the biggest trophy in his hand, “[The Beacons] were very tough opponents. And they were very well organized. But they a kind of held on to play a smart basketball. We were very fortunate to work out here and to win the game. Winning this tournament on the first weekend of the season makes huge confidence.”

Polk recollected that a lack of communication in defense contributed to the loss. Also, the Beacons helped the Sharks with 22 fouls during the 40-minute match. Simmons College utilized the windfalls to hit 24 free throws, even at a mediocre 55.8 percent, which made all the difference, especially at the end of the second half.

Though the Beacons missed the coveted title at home, the tournament made Polk optimistic about this season’s prospect, stating, “I think we look great now. We have a very long road. But we definitely have a very positive road ahead of us. We have a great potential and don’t like to lose.” She added, “My freshmen are tremendous this year. They have exceeded my expectation already. They all definitely need a lot more development. But they are great at this point of the season.”

As of November 29, the Beacons are 1-2 after they lost to Fitchburg State College 41-79 on Tuesday, November 23. The team will be away to play two games before hosting conference-foe Keene State College on Saturday, December 11.