by Luke Stanczyk
One bad stretch of play by the Eagles was all Maranatha needed to propel them to victory on Saturday afternoon, as a bad start to the second half headlined a 73-68 defeat.
Despite holding a 40-35 lead at the half, BenU allowed the Crusaders (9-6, 4-6 in the NAC) to stage a 16-4 run in the first five minutes of the second half.
“I thought it was kind of a tale of two halves,” said Head Coach Kristen Gillespie. “We just didn’t match their intensity, and I thought we played very flat in the second half.”
The Eagles would trail by as many as eight in the second half, but a strong second half from sophomore guard Michelle Gaede allowed BenU to come back to tie the game with just over four minutes left. However, Maranatha would stage a run of their own late to ensure them the victory.
“It was just a bad situation to be down, so we were just trying to do anything we could to get it [the lead] back,” said Gaede.
Maranatha was led by sophomore center Laci Peterson, who was one block shy of a triple-double (15 points, 12 rebounds, nine blocks).
“I thought she did a phenomenal job,” said Gillespie of Peterson. “I thought she was a game-changer for them. We tried to run some things to get her up and out, but she just kind of clogged up the lane.”
Junior guard Kristen Morrison led the Crusaders in scoring with 18 points, and all five of their starters scored in double figures.
“I give them a lot of credit, “Gillespie added. “They have five kids in double figures, and they really shared the ball well.”
For the Eagles, Gaede led the team with 22 points and six steals, while senior Tracey Walsh added 13 points and a team-high three blocked shots. Freshman guard Megan Novak added 12 points, ten of which came in the first half.
With the loss, the Eagles fell to 5-12 and 2-8 in Northern Athletics Conference play. BenU takes the court on Tuesday night at home once again, this time against conference rival Aurora University.
“Since I’ve been here, I’ve really learned a lot about the rivalry,” explained Gillespie, who is in her first year as the team’s Head Coach. “I know they’ll [the team] be real excited to play.”