Women’s basketball advances to quarterfinal with win over Navy
Fisher continues to have the hot-hand as Eagles look ahead to Boston University
Two weeks ago, it looked like sophomore guard Emily Fisher would close out her season as a one-way player: a special talent on the defensive end while averaging just six points per game down the stretch.
But on Saturday afternoon, Fisher flipped the switch.
Just three days after defeating #10 Navy (7-23, 2-17 PL) in the regular-season finale, Fisher and the #7 Eagles (13-16, 9-10 PL) replicated their dominance on the defensive end to secure a 63-53 first-round victory Saturday inside Bender Arena.
“It was a great win,” head coach Gebbia said. “Any time you have to beat a team three times is not easy, especially in a short span of time. Really proud that we found a way.”
With the win, AU will turn their attention toward #2 Boston University (17-12, 12-6 PL) for Monday’s 6 p.m. quarterfinal game at BU’s Case Arena.
Fisher brought the energy all game, scoring a team-high 18 points in the victory. She has been the X-factor late in the season for the Eagles, and the team will continue to rely upon her as they hope to keep their season alive.
“The past two games, I’ve kind of just been more and more aggressive and going for it,” Fisher said. “My teammates, my coaches are like ‘just do it, just go for it, no one can guard you, you’re one of the fastest guards on the court’.”
The Eagles victory didn’t come without faults though. AU’s half-court offense stalled out for much of the game as they registered 19 turnovers against Navy’s cohesive zone defense.
Sloppy ball movement and poor shooting plagued AU in the first quarter as the team shot just one-for-11 from the field with six turnovers. Navy abandoned the zone on Wednesday but stuck with the defensive strategy for most of Saturday’s game due to AU’s 5-18 performance from deep.
Shooting has been an area of weakness for the Eagles throughout conference play.
“We lost the lead and were able to come back and get it,” Gebbia said. “I don’t think we ever lost confidence in yourself even when they tied it up in the second half.”
The Eagles opened up the second quarter with an added level of intensity, with two straight and-one conversions from Fisher and sophomore guard Jade Edwards. AU didn’t take its foot off the gas for the rest of the game, pushing the pace en route to a 25-point second quarter to take a 32-25 lead into halftime.
“Our thing has always been effort and energy,” Fisher said. “We always keep each other accountable… it makes it easier to play, you’re more hyped, more eager to play.”
On Navy’s side, senior guard and all-defensive team selection Morgan Taylor took her talents to the offensive side of the court. The Eagles had no answer for Taylor early on, as she carved up AU’s defense to the tune of 15 first-half points. The Eagles held on though, as the rest of the Midshipmen combined to shoot just 15 percent (3-20) from the field in the first half.
“Navy, they’re tough,” Fisher said. “They put up a really good fight.”
Taylor would continue to make quick work of AU’s defense in the third quarter, knocking down an and-one layup and a 3-pointer to finish with a season-high 21 points.
Navy started the quarter on a 10-3 run to keep the game close, but Fisher continued to run everything in transition and sophomore guard Jade Edwards brought in key rebounds to close the half with a 44-39 lead.
Edwards finished the game with 14 points and nine rebounds, an impressive performance to back up her selection to the Patriot League second team on Friday.
She wasn’t the only Eagle to pick up an award, however, as senior guard Kaitlyn Marenyi (who had a double-double Saturday) notched a third-team selection and junior guard Indeya Sanders earned a spot on the Patriot League’s all-defensive team.
AU capitalized on several missed opportunities by the Midshipmen in the fourth quarter, but senior guard Mary Kate Ulasewicz hit a pair of 3-pointers to cut AU’s lead down to one with three minutes remaining. AU made several key stops down the stretch and sealed the deal with an efficient performance at the free throw-line.
The story of the game would be incomplete without mentioning AU’s performance at the charity stripe, where they connected on their final 16 attempts and 24 of 27 shots overall.
With 20 seconds remaining and a ten-point lead, Marenyi dribbled out the clock to send AU to its eighth straight quarterfinal appearance under Gebbia.
The Eagles will face Boston University, a team that has split the season series at one win a-piece. AU pulled away in their most recent matchup, a 55-54 win at home on Feb. 22.
It’s one of those things where you hope they don’t rest on their laurels,” Gebbia said. “I don’t think they’re going to be like that. I think they’re focused and ready for the next opponent.”
Unlike Navy, BU has the size advantage over AU and has risen toward the top of the conference thanks to its prowess on the interior.
“Heading to BU, [rebounding] is going to be a huge focus,” Gebbia said. “They have some more post players so our strategy’s going to have to be different and we’re going to play more bigs.”
AU’s biggest challenge will come in the form of junior guard Katie Nelson and Patriot League rookie of the year guard Maggie Pina. AU held Pina to just 7.5 points per game in their previous two matchups and will have to keep her and the Terriers three all-rookie guards in check to pull off an upset.