Women’s basketball signs three to class of 2026, loses first two matchups of season


Sophomore guard Makayla Andrews (Pictured) made double digits. (Photo courtesy of GoLeopards.com)

By Nicky Nathanson, Staff Writer

The Lafayette women’s basketball team began their 2021-2022 season this past weekend with two losses, one against Pitt and the second against Duquesne. The Leopards are coming off a 5-7 conference finish last year with a tough loss in the 2021 Patriot League Quarterfinals.

The team fell to the Panthers 72-63 on Friday, and to Duquesne 60-47 on Sunday. 

Additionally, Lafayette welcomed three new student-athlete commits to the class of 2026. 

Kay Donahue will join College Hill from Montgomery High School in Belle Mead, New Jersey, where she has been a two year-starter averaging eight points a game. Donahue is also on her school’s volleyball and soccer teams and will join the Leopards as a guard.

Lafayette also signed Emma Shields from Emma Willard School in Troy, New York. Standing at six foot three inches, Shields has averaged an astounding double-double in each of her years at Emma Willard and will be joining the team primarily as a forward.

In their third signing, the Leopards added Sauda Ntaconayigize from Quebec, Canada. Ntaconayigize currently attends Champlain College Saint-Lambert, where she has been a three-year member of the basketball team. In her time there she has been named the Most Valuable Player, team captain, and a finalist for the Female Student-Athlete of the Year and will be joining the team as a guard.

In addition to these newly-announced Leopards, young talent was shown this past weekend as freshman guard Claire Gallagher led the way for Lafayette in her first collegiate start against Pittsburgh with a team-high 19 points, 15 of which were from beyond the arc. Gallagher shot 70% from the field and 5-6 from beyond the arc.

Freshman guard Abby Antognoli and sophomore guard Makayla Andrews also found themselves in double-digits, scoring 13 and 17 points respectively.

The Panthers got the first bucket of the game followed by a layup from the Leopards less than a minute later. The two teams traded a few more buckets throughout the beginning of the game, with the Panthers leading 17-11 at the end of the first quarter.

The Panthers came out hot in the second quarter unleashing a 10-0 run before senior guard Makaila Wilson broke it. Wilson’s bucket ended a 4-minute scoring drought for Lafayette. The Leopards, who had trailed by as much as 20, went on their own 9-2 run to end the half down 13 points at 35-22.

Within the first two and half minutes of the third quarter, the Panthers increased their lead on a 9-2 run that brought the score to 44-26.

Fresh out of a media timeout the Leopards went on a run that cut Pittsburg’s 20-point lead to seven. Both teams continued trading baskets as the Leopards headed into the fourth quarter down only five points at 52-47. 

The third quarter was by far the Leopards’ best of the day as they shot close to 60% from the field and scored 25 points, more than the previous two quarters combined.

The Leopards refused to give up in the fourth quarter, with Gallagher unleashing an 11-2 run and hitting three three-pointers in a row plus a jumper.

“Our freshmen also stepped up big time and showed no fear in the fourth quarter,” senior captain Nicole Johnson said.

The Leopards were down by one at 61-62, looking to lead for the first time in the game. A Panthers’ layup brought the lead back to three before Lafayette retaliated.

The Panthers ultimately prevailed as they ended the game on an 8-0 run to close it out 72-63.

“We didn’t come out with the win, but we grew in terms of our resiliency. Being down twenty, we knew the game was not over. We fought back until the end,” Johnson said. “We learned that on any given night, anyone can step up and produce.”

In Sunday’s action, the Leopards found themselves behind early as Duquesne’s strong defense forced several turnovers.

Duquesne opened the game on a 16-0 run. Junior guard Jessica Booth was the first Leopard to get on the board, totaling a career-high 17 points on the day with five rebounds and two assists.

The Leopards clawed their way back, bringing the score to 21-11 at the end of the first quarter.

The Leopards opened up the second quarter with senior forward Naomi Ganpo’s layup. Duquesne was able to hold the lead going into the half up by 10.

Like Friday’s game, the third quarter was the highest-scoring period for the Leopards, and they cut the lead once again as Andrews made a pair of free throws and a jumper.

In the fourth quarter, both teams were trading buckets until Lafayette was down 11 with four minutes to go. When the Leopards added a basket, Duquesne was quick to respond. In the end, Duquesne ended up victorious, with a final score of 60-47.

“Our biggest strength is our chemistry on and off the court. We all truly trust each other and each other’s abilities,” Johnson said. “We are open with each other, can hold each other accountable, and have fun playing together.”

The Leopards look to capture their first win as they host Siena tomorrow, Nov. 2o at 7 p.m. following the 157th rivalry football game.