By Joseph Phelan, @JPhelan13
In the Bonnies season opener against North Carolina State last Friday night they fell behind.
Instead of fighting back, the Bonnies fell apart.
A week later the Bonnies found themselves in a similar situation against Wisconsin-Green Bay, but this time coach Jim Crowley’s team responded with a 68-62 victory.
“(I’m) just really proud of our kids’ effort,” said Crowley. “Obviously we didn’t start well. We dug that big hole, and we just weren’t playing hard enough.”
The Phoenix (1-1) led by 16 points with less than nine minutes left in the first half, but the Bonnies cut that lead to four points by halftime — and then took control in the second half which Crowley credits to defense.
“We started to cover up better for one another,” said Crowley. “We started contest shots better and just really did a good job of making them earn scores in ways that they are not comfortable.”
Sure, the Bonnies ended Wisconsin-Green Bay’s 22-game regular season win streak.
But that’s not the take away from last night’s victory.
Crowley wants his team to play hard for one another; to play each game to the fullest.
Although the Bonnies struggled at times against the Phoenix, they more than proved how well they could be when playing together.
“I tell them all of the time,” said Crowley. “I don’t really care about the scoreboard—I care about how we play. And I thought they really believed that today, and they focused on just playing hard.”
The effort had definitely been there last night. After allowing four three pointers in the first half, the Bonnies surrendered one in the second half.
Emily Michael played sound defense, as did Hannah Little and Oney Harrison.
Each player did her part for the win.
“We just really played hard and everybody contributed in a positive way,” said Crowley.
Gabrielle Richmond and Nyla Rueter, however, stood out above the rest.
Richmond scored 17 points and grabbed nine rebounds, but most importantly she held Phoenix redshirt senior Breannah Ranger to five points on 2-7 shooting—and in doing so, Ranger fouled out because the pressure Richmond put on her.
“I think I played hard,” said Richmond. “I just feel like if I just play hard then everything else will follow. My defense carried over to my offense.”
Richmond has added another dimension to the Bonnies this year.
Katie Healy attracts the defense’s attention because of her ability to stretch the floor and control the blocks.
Richmond moves well without the ball, fights extremely hard for rebounds and has been scoring at an efficient rate (60.7 percent) through three games.
The most impressive basket Richmond had came from the hand of the gifted passer Rueter.
As the shot clock dwindled down in the second half, Rueter threw a one-handed pass from the three-point line diagonally to an open Richmond for a bucket underneath the basket.
Rueter’s vision and creativity had been on display in that assist.
“There are not many people who can have made that pass,” said Crowley. “I mean that was a high level play.”
Rueter not only found open teammates, but she also converted on nine out of 10 free throws.
“I was really confident in my free throws,” said Rueter. “I just really had the mentality that I wanted to get the ball and I wanted to go to the free throw line and make points to get us more ahead.”
Each game has it’s own importance, but the goals will always be the same for the Bonnies: Play hard and learn from past mistakes.
“Now the challenge is to consistently do that, and to enjoy this win but not be satisfied — to crave this feeling again and then to earn it,” said Crowley.