Women’s basketball falls in Wolf’s Bus Lines Classic

Ariel Jones-Bill Smith

SU’s Ariel Jones put forth two strong performances over the weekend, including two games in which she scored more than 20 points in the 2017 Wolf’s Bus Lines Classic.

The Shippensburg University women’s basketball team kicked off the 2017-18 campaign against two top tier opponents, Wheeling Jesuit University and Bowie State University, in the 2017 Wolf’s Bus Lines Classic.

The Raiders finished the weekend falling just short in both contests, despite strong flashes by an extremely young team that graduated seven seniors last season.

Freshman guard Ariel Jones excelled over the weekend, scoring 24 points on Friday and 27 in Saturday’s game. Forward Kryshell Gordy had a double-double in her collegiate debut on Friday, scoring 12 points on 6-of-8 shooting, to complement 11 rebounds, four assists and three blocks.

SU opened the season Friday night against Wheeling Jesuit, but a slow start kept the Raiders from being able to claw all the way back in a 72-63 loss to the Cardinals.

Wheeling Jesuit claimed a 14-4 lead with 3:57 left in the first quarter. The 10-point lead held until the end of the quarter, as the Raiders trailed 20-10 after one.

The Raiders’ struggles in the quarter ultimately were the difference, but SU stormed back in the second half, outscoring the Cardinals 21-16 in the third quarter. Wheeling Jesuit held a 50-43 lead through three quarters.

“They had a lot of fight in them, which is a good sign, so I know we’re going to be alright down the road,” SU head coach Kristy Trn said. “I think that where we stumbled was when we weren’t too sure of what plays we were running instead of just cutting. We had a lot of really good performances though, and they’re only going to get better.”

SU cut the Cardinals lead to just seven with 4:39 left to play, but could draw no closer, despite holding Wheeling Jesuit scoreless for the final 3:39 of the game.

Jones totaled a game-high 24 points in the loss including three 3-pointers, and a perfect 7-of-7 shooting from the free-throw line. She also added three rebounds, three assists, two steals and a block with just a single turnover.

“She has the ability to turn it on when she wants to,” Trn said of Jones. “She is a competitor and can shoot the three and get to the basket. I’d like to see her focus on defense. She has an adjustment concept wise to make from high school. She has the speed it just takes some time to adjust.”

Jones was playing in just her first career-game, but put on quite a show. She was rewarded for it as the PSAC East Women’s Basketball Athlete of the Week. Gordy was recognized by the PSAC as well as the east division’s freshman of the week.

Senior captain Victoria Blackburn finished with six points, three rebounds and three assists in just her second collegiate start. Freshman guard Kasey Engle scored seven points and played strong defense for the Raiders. Lili Benzel scored eight points, knocking down a pair of threes.

Wheeling Jesuit’s Mariah Callen scored 20 points and surpassed the 1,000-point plateau in the game. Monica Burns added 16 points and Chenelle Moore grabbed 12 rebounds.

The Raiders finished with a positive assist-to-turnover ratio, totaling 17 assists and 12 turnovers.

SU turned it around in the first quarter against one of the stronger teams in the CIAA in Bowie State, outscoring the Bulldogs 20-14 in the opening quarter. The Raiders went on a 12-4 run in the first five minutes before Bowie State rallied back to take a 28-27 lead at halftime.

SU held the Bulldogs to just 14 points in three of the four quarters, but Bowie State’s tremendous run that carried over into the third made the difference.

The Raiders were outscored by Bowie State 31-14 in the third, which switched SU’s momentum. To SU’s credit however, the team responded with a 14-2 run to close the game. 

Jones again dominated with 27 points and seven rebounds. She shot 5-of-7 from 3-point range and hit a three from behind the half court line as time expired at the end of the first quarter. Gordy also scored in double figures with 10 points and six rebounds, to go along with three assists. 

Senior Kristin McGeough finished with eight points, while Benzel scored six. 

Jones and Gordy were both named to the All-Tournament Team for the Raiders.

Despite the two losses, SU can take stock in the fact that the two teams it faced are some of the top teams in the Atlantic Region that could be vying for tournament spots come playoff time. 

The Raiders’ schedule does not get any easier however, as it heads to Slippery Rock University on Friday to take on The Rock, before traveling to Edinboro University on Saturday to battle the Fighting Scots.

“I’ve never been one to shy away from playing the good teams because that’s the only way you’re going to get better,” Trn said. “With such a young group, we really need to face that competition. We’re going to just try to take those early games in the west schedule to go out and compete and adjust each game to the mistakes that we made.”

The ultimate plan for the Raiders is to gain enough experience to succeed in the PSAC East when division play rolls around.

“The goal is to work through those games so that when we get to our division, we are ready to compete and can do better than when we were picked to finish,” Trn said.

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