By Cameron Hurst @CameronNHurst
The 2016-17 basketball season has been a whirlwind, to say the least, for Mckenna Maycock.
The sophomore guard from nearby Randolph, N.Y., who began the season in the starting lineup, was at one point limited to as little as nine minutes off the bench in the St. Bonaventure women’s basketball team’s 43-40 loss against Delaware on Nov. 19.
However, after playing 31 minutes and scoring a team-high and career-high 14 points for the Bonnies (8-12, 3-5 A-10) during Saturday’s 69-56 victory over Duquesne at the Reilly Center, it is safe to say that Maycock has truly come to embrace her role as the “sixth-woman” and first option off the bench for head coach Jesse Fleming.
“This year, I definitely started off kind of nervous because I was playing way more than I did last year and it was just a different role,” said Maycock on her progression throughout the season. “I think I needed time to get into this [sixth woman role] and I’m trying to contribute as much as I can to the team. I think I’m getting there.”
After outscoring the Bonnies 10-6 to start the fourth quarter, the Dukes managed to cut into their deficit, trailing 53-44 after a Chassidy Omogrosso three with 4:34 left in the game. Maycock then went on a tear, scoring the Bonnies next eight points via two corner three’s separated by a lay-in in between, to give St. Bonaventure their largest lead of the game, 14, at the 3:37 mark.
“I thought she was fantastic and she had a fantastic ten days where I think she finally realizes how good she can be,” said Fleming on Maycock’s performance. “She’s been fantastic in practice and in games, she’s guarding, she’s flying around, she’s making shots … she was just locked in and it’s hard to guard against her when she’s locked in.”
Fleming also believes that Maycock’s performance helped give her teammates confidence in scoring. As a result, the Bonnies had five players in double-figures for the first time since Jan. 18, 2015 against Dayton, as, in addition to Maycock’s 14, Mariah Ruff chipped in 13, while Matea Britvar and Jalisha Terry had 12 and Gabby Richmond had 11.
Added Fleming: “Everybody else stepped up. We defended like crazy. I thought [Richmond] was huge protecting the rim a little bit. She flew around. Everybody did, though, and that’s how we’ve been playing for over a week now…”
The Bonnies established a strong rhythm early, beginning the game on a 10-4 run heading into the first media timeout of the first quarter, highlighted by two field goals from Maycock, two pairs of free throws by Richmond and Terry, and a lay-in by Britvar.
That combination would continually challenge the Duquesne defense, which ultimately would fall apart, allowing nine St. Bonaventure steals, much to the chagrin of Dukes head coach Dan Burt.
“Obviously I’m very disappointed in our effort,” said Burt, whose Dukes were picked to finish second in the Atlantic 10 during the preseason, but who fell to 10-11 and 3-5 in the conference.
Added Burt: “We have been inconsistent all year long and tonight further validated that. We were soft, we lacked physical toughness, we’re just a basketball team that doesn’t have an identity and it’s really disappointing for me because I expected us to be further along than where we are right now.”
Apart from his own team’s performance, Burt praised Fleming’s coaching on Saturday, calling the Bonnies a “very well coached basketball team.”
“Jesse Fleming continues the tradition of his predecessor [Jim Crowley] and he learned an awful lot from him,” said Burt, now in his fourth season of coaching the Dukes. “This is his program now and Jesse has done a really good job with coaching this team. They beat us … and that’s the only way to describe it.”
“I’m just super proud of our team, I thought we absolutely out-toughed [Duquesne],” said Fleming. “We were flying around … we absolutely have a better energy, we’re small, whatever, but we get in there, we’re tough, we’re driving the ball constantly, and we’re not settling.”
Also encouraging for the Bonnies, once again, was the performance of Ruff, whose week has certainly come full circle after going scoreless against Fordham a week ago. Ruff credits her teammates for helping her regain a confidence that had been lost for 20 straight field goal attempts.
“Together as a team, we got together and we figured stuff out,” said Ruff. “I think also that once you see one of the baskets go in after you have a draught, you just know ‘I’m okay now.’”
The Bonnies now look to continue their tough performance against Davidson at 7 p.m. Wednesday at the Reilly Center. If St. Bonaventure can continue their strong conference play as of late, with the talent the team possesses, Fleming truly believes that the sky is the limit for a Bonnies team picked to finish tenth in the Atlantic 10 preseason rankings.
Said Fleming: “I’m just excited to see where we are going on this journey.”