By Ann Brunn
The women’s basketball team opened its season playing in the Messiah College Tip-Off Tournament with a loss to Christopher Newport University by a score of 87-45 on Friday, Nov. 8, in Grantham, Penn.
Christopher Newport opened the game on a 7-0 run, but the Lions countered with a 7-2 run of their own, which came with contributions from sophomore guard Rachel Gazzola, junior forward Shannon Devitt and freshman guard Sydney Blum, who converted the old-fashioned three-point play to bring the Lions within two.
A Devitt lay-up followed by a three-pointer from senior forward Jen Byrne had the College within three points at 23-20, with a little over six minutes to play in the first half. However, Christopher Newport maintained control, as it took a 44-25 lead into halftime and never looked back.
Byrne led the Lions with 15 points on 5-of-10 from shooting from the field, including a pair of threes. Devitt notched 12 points on 6-of-10 from shooting on the floor and collected five rebounds off the glass. Gazzola picked up 10 points on 5-of-8 shooting, while junior guard Ellie Cimilluca tallied six assists on the evening.
The Lions bounced back on Saturday, Nov. 9, with a 70-46 victory over Penn State Lehigh Valley in the second game of the tournament in Center Valley, Penn.
The College ripped off an 18-5 run in the first quarter to take a commanding lead 20-5. Gazzola started the charge for the Lions, knocking down a three-pointer and following it up with a jumper inside the arc to give the Lions a 7-4 lead. Blum hit a three-pointer to stretch the lead to 10. Junior guard Natalie Miller then followed with a three-pointer of her own, assisted by Cimilluca, to put the College up by 15.
The Lions took a 33-16 advantage into halftime and did not let up in the second half, as they went on a 25-12 scoring stretch in the third quarter. Just under five minutes to play in the quarter, Blum notched another three-pointer assisted by Byrne, which gave the Lions a 43-22 lead. Freshman forward Morgan Heller knocked down a jumper to swell the lead to 23, while Blum added her own bucket to make it 47-25. Miller ripped off three straight shots from behind the arc, giving the Lions their largest lead of the afternoon, 58-30.
Miller and Blum each had 15 points in the contest, with Blum going 4-for-7 from 3-point range and Miller going 5-for-7 behind the arc. Gazzola notched 12 points in the win, while Byrne collected nine points and eight rebounds. Cimilluca already has 15 assists to start the season, nine of them coming in the second game alone. The Lions’ ability to share the basketball was evident, given the 24 assists on 27 made field goals.
The women will be back in action on Friday, Nov. 15, at 7 p.m. in Packer Hall for their home opener against Ithaca College.