Women’s basketball falls to American in heartbreaker

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Freshman guard Kylie Favours drives to the lane looking for the open shot as the Leopards do their best to snap their six game skid. (Photo courtesy of Hannah Simmons for GoLeopards)

Craig Barbaro, Staff Writer

The women’s basketball team continues to struggle this season, losing in a tough battle to Army on Saturday, Jan. 29, 50-46. The Leopards, who started 3-0 in Patriot League play, currently sit at 3-6 in the conference and 7-12 overall.

“We were all just stunned with the last couple of minutes of the game and how it played out; it was pretty quiet in the locker room following the loss,” freshman guard Claire Gallagher said. “I think given that we are dealing with Covid issues and how well we played defense, we put ourselves in a position to win and we’re all excited about that. Overall though, it was crushing to lose in the last seconds of the game like that.”

Even though the Leopards were on the losing end, they dominated nearly every major statistical category. They outscored Army 15-10 on points off turnovers and 18-12 on second-chance points. They also outscored Army 18-6 in the paint. The Leopards were led by freshman guard Abby Antognoli who scored 15 points and shot a perfect 3-3 from behind the arc.

The Leopards and Army were neck and neck throughout the contest. The Leopards jumped out to an 8-2 lead in the first quarter before a three and a buzzer-beater jump shot by Army sent the game to the second quarter with an 8-7 score in Lafayette’s favor.

The Leopards got off to a hot start in the second quarter, going on a 6-0 run to push their lead to 14-7 until a timely 13-2 run by the Black Knights gave them a four-point lead just prior to the two-minute mark of the first half. The Leopards ended the first half with Gallagher knocking down two free throws to move the Leopards within one, 20-19, heading into halftime.

“In order to turn this season around, it all has to do with putting forth our best effort. We really work hard as a team, but we need to ensure that doesn’t slide,” Gallagher said. “Each game, every single detail and every single possession matters. The intensity always heats up in the fourth quarter and we have the ability to go on a big run, but in the first half there where will be stretches of five minutes where we score no points and that hurts too. It’s about putting together four complete quarters.”

The Leopards were down but not out heading into the third quarter and fought hard to keep the contest close. Army and Lafayette traded buckets to open the second half, but Army knocked down two back-to-back threes to make it 28-21. The Leopards responded with a 5-0 run of their own to cut the deficit to two. Junior forward Naomi Ganpo hit a clutch layup to knot the game, and Antognoli hit a big three to give Leopards the 31-28 advantage. Army kept up and the teams headed into the fourth with the game tied at 32.

The start of the final quarter featured more back-and-forth action and with six minutes remaining, Lafayette and Army were knotted at 36. From there, Antognoli stepped up massively for the Leopards, knocking down back-to-back threes to give the Leopards the 42-36 advantage with five minutes to play.

The Leopards pushed their lead to 44-36 before Army responded with a stunning 8-2 run over the course of three minutes to pull within two points with a minute left to play. From there, Army would go to the free-throw line three times and make all 6 of their free throws to win 50-46. The Leopards did not score a point in the final three and a half minutes in the loss.

“It was definitely a tough loss, but we were down two starters and it was closer than the first time we lost to them so I feel like it showed us that we’re right there with, like, teams in the top of our league,” Antognoli said. “And it’s just a matter of points. So although we were discouraged, we actually became more motivated as a result.”

The Leopards will be at Bucknell for their next game on Sunday, Feb. 6 at 5:00 p.m.

“I feel like all the games that we have lost have been extremely tight, just a few possessions that didn’t go our way that cost us the game. We’re focusing on just bringing the energy and keeping up our great defensive intensity,” Antognoli said. “I’m just keying in on a few little mistakes that we’re making from previous games. For the remainder of the season, we want to catch some wins.”