Women's basketball overcomes 12-point deficit; defeats Army West Point in overtime
Ambassador Susan Rice guest coaches; Marenyi scores game-tying basket on National Girls and Women in Sports Day
A heart-racing game in Bender Arena on Saturday tested the women’s basketball team’s championship merit. AU (18-4, 11-0 PL) beat Army West Point 71-63 in overtime, but in the third quarter, the Eagles trailed by as many as 10 points.
Saturday’s game started out slowly for the Eagles. Junior forward Cecily Carl made the team’s first basket with a little more than one minute left in the first quarter. Before Carl’s basket, senior guard Emily Kinneston, senior guard Maria Liddane, junior guard Elina Koskimies, senior forward Michael Harris, sophomore forward TaeKenya Cleveland and Carl all missed their attempted shots. By Carl’s basket, the Black Knights had six points on the board.
“Our practices the past couple days haven't been stellar, shooting-wise especially, not effort-wise,” head coach Megan Gebbia said. “With this room in particular, if we don't practice well, we don't play well. I had a feeling going into this game that it wasn't going to be pretty… and Army makes it ugly.”
In the second quarter, junior guard Kaitlyn Lewis’ jump shot put AU behind only by one point (11-10). By halftime, the Eagles were behind by 9 (26-17), and in the middle of the third quarter, the gap stretched to 12 (33-21).
By the end of the fourth quarter, Kinneston and Koskimies combined for 12 rebounds, and the team’s total was 27.
“We just didn’t get things to fall in the first half, but we never gave up on ourselves and we were patient,” Gebbia said. “In the second half things, started to roll for us, and we gained confidence.”
At the start of the fourth quarter, the teams were 2 points apart. With 25 seconds left in the game, sophomore guard Katie Marenyi hit a game-tying 3-point basket, leaving the Eagles and Black Knights tied 55-55 into overtime.
“I actually thought we were running a different play,” Marenyi said. “I caught it, I saw a space, so I took it. Coach always says if you are open, you shoot it. There wasn't much thought that went into it. I was open, so I shot it.”
When Marenyi made her 3-point, game-tying basket, every Eagles fan in Bender was on their feet, and the cheering in the arena was deafening.
“The crowd was amazing today,” Marenyi said. “Whenever we had something that was a momentum changer, they were yelling and screaming, which gets us more excited. The crowd definitely played a part in our win today.”
While the Black Knights crept close, the Eagles remained ahead of Army in the entirety of overtime. Kinneston’s free throw was the last basket made in the game, giving the Eagles their 11th Patriot League win and extending their winning streak to 12 games.
Gebbia recognized; Ambassador Susan Rice guest coaches
Ambassador Susan Rice guest-coached the team throughout their win, though she said that “this team doesn’t need any of my advice when it comes to basketball.”
Rice serves as a distinguished visiting research fellow in the School of International Service, and she served as the second guest coach of the last three home games after University President Sylvia Burwell served in the same role Jan. 17. Rice coached Burwell at Oxford University.
“They play with incredible heart,” Rice said. “They never doubted themselves, they had the strength and the guts they are known for.”
The ambassador’s young daughter was in the crowd during the game.
“I believe powerfully in the importance of sports as a development tool for women’s leadership,” Rice said. “I'm always happy to be supportive, but specifically to be here on this day.”
The University hosted a celebration for National Women and Girls in Sports Day in Bender Arena following the Eagles’ win. AU’s female teams gathered in stations around the gymnasium, and young girls and boys flooded each one, practicing shooting hoops with women’s basketball, kicking balls with women’s soccer and even tumbling with cheer and dance. Athena Argyropoulos, senior associate athletic director and senior woman administrator, coordinated the event.
Following the game, Gebbia was also inducted into the YMCA Alvin G. Quinn Sports Hall of Fame. She was recognized as “Outstanding College Women’s Basketball Coach” as the Eagles sit atop the Patriot League standings.
The Eagles play next in Bender on Wednesday at 7 p.m. against Loyola Maryland.