Women defend home court on homecoming

Photo by Isael Chavez | Mercury Staff

After a striking victory against Concordia, the Comets returned to the Activity Center to dominate the Feb. 16 and Feb. 18 homecoming games. The women’s basketball team now holds 12 wins and six losses in the conference season, bringing it to fourth place before the Feb. 21 ASC quarterfinals.

Joe Shotland, the head coach for the Comets, said he is excited that his team will get to play another home game, especially after the close Feb. 18 match.

“I think that speaks to the resiliency of the group,” Shotland said. “I think that, luckily, winning gave us an opportunity to have one more home game, which is great. But it’s cool when you get these moments to reflect on your journey, and it goes by so quick that often we don’t have a chance to look at it.”

On Feb. 16, Comets faced off against the LeTourneau Yellowjackets, winning 67-37. Comets scored an above average 37.3% of field goals, 31.8% of 3-pointers and 66.7% of free throws. This is the second time that the women’s team has defeated the Yellowjackets this season. However, for homecoming, the Comets outperformed last game with a season best of 10 blocks and 17 steals.

Still the number one defensive team in the women’s ASC, the Comets shut down LeTourneau in the second quarter, forcing the Yellowjackets to a season low of 16.7% 3-pointers and 53.8% free throws.

Senior Jordan Maxwell led her team with 11 points scored and recorded two key steals. Sophomore Cierra Trigg broke her personal record with three assists and 10 points scored, including two 3-pointers. Freshman Amanda Crowninshield drew attention as a commanding presence with nine points scored, three rebounds and two steals. Junior Kaylee Boykin scored seven points while providing four assists and three steals.

“We know that these are really important games. So, for us, [we] buckle down and handle our business,” Maxwell said. “I think it was important that we did get these wins, and we go into these playoffs more so on a high note.”

With another victory under their belt, the Comets returned to the Activity Center for the Feb. 18 homecoming game against the East Texas Baptist Tigers. Comets secured a tight 52-51 victory against the Tigers cheered on by 681 fans, the largest audience this season for the women’s team. The Tigers, who held second place in the championship before the final tournament, kept the Comets on their toes in what is the closest game in the entire 2022-2023 ASC women’s season.

This is the second time these teams have gone head to head this year. On Feb. 18, the Comets recorded 41.2% of field goals scored, 25.0% of 3-pointers and 54.5% of free throws, in comparison to the Tiger’s 39.1% of field goals, 36.4% of 3-pointers and 73.3% of free throws.

Maxwell started the first quarter with a two-point layup setting the stage for a shaky four-point held until the second quarter. The Tigers then made a 12-point lead, breaking through the Comets’ famous defense up until halftime. The Comets received a second wind in the third quarter, making five scores back-to-back in the first three minutes. At the start of the fourth quarter, both teams were tied with 37 points, and in the final minute, the Comets and Tigers were deadlocked into a 51-point tie. After a missed shot from the Comets, the Tigers took control of the ball in the last 20 seconds. The Tigers nearly made a winning shot but were stopped by a foul that allowed for Maxwell to finish the game with a free throw.

Maxwell — whose name was painted on banners across the homecoming court — scored 15 points to accompany three assists and one steal, playing for the longest amount of time on her team for 29 minutes.

“I had a lot of support these last four years, and they all came out, and they’ve been really supportive doing that,” Maxwell said. “I think a lot of my teammates know that we’re all just playing for each other at this point. I’m playing for them just as much as they’re playing for the seniors and a new head coach. So, I think, in our head, it’s like we have a lot to prove and we wanted to get it done.

Senior Diane Hurst followed up with 10 points scored, supporting her fellow Comets with three rebounds and three assists.

“Honestly, our whole year we really [homed in that defense was our thing,” Hurst said. “We are the number one defensive team in the conference. That was a big game because now we get to host the first round of the conference tournament, and there’s a lot weighing on that game. So, I had a lot of emotions, but we really locked down and did what we had to do.”

Other notable players and game leaders include senior Lauren Fulenwider, who scored six points and made four assists; junior Blythe Williams, who scored six points and rebounded six; and Crowninshield, who scored six points.

Maxwell, Hurst, Fulenwider and senior Maddie Edler were honored after the match, playing their last regular game on the team before returning with the rest of the Comets to the Activity Center for the ASC quarterfinals.

“I was proud of our group, especially the seniors,” Shotland said. “They all had a hand in that win, and it was really cool to see them be able to contribute at such a high level on [the] big stage in front of the great home crowd.”

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