BY NATALIE HEAVREN, SPORTS EDITOR
“Unbelievable atmosphere, unbelievable win for our team, I’m just really really really happy for this group of young women,” said head coach Nyla Milleson to open the press conference.
“…On a very emotional day with our Pink Game, our Senior Day. Getting down early but just believing in ourselves, believing in the game plan. It sure makes the game easier when the ball goes in the hole, but I’m just really proud and I’m so happy for this group of young women played their tail off today.”
Women’s Basketball defeated the University of Dayton 54-51 on a buzzer-beating corner three from Nicole Cardaño-Hillary. The Patriots improved to 7-7 in conference play and 15-12 overall.
Here are four takeaways from the game.
- Developing depth at the right time
In a game where two starters, Jacy Bolton and Sarah Kaminski, combined for just two points, Mason had to find their scoring elsewhere. Nine players saw action, and the bench scored 21 of Mason’s 54 points.
“Cam’s [Camarie Gatling] started to develop into a really consistent scorer,” Milleson said after the game. “Allie [McCool], I don’t know if she scored or not today but you know she’s coming in and giving us great, great minutes. Jewel Triggs, what great minutes she gave today … So we have, we’ve developed depth and we’ve got to continue to, you know, just everyday stay the course.”
2. Point guard play is critical.
Cardaño-Hillary and Alexsis Grate combined for 34 points, most of which came thanks to their ability to drive to the basket. Grate scored a season-high 13 points, her most since she scored 14 against Duquesne on Feb. 5, 2017, while Cardaño-Hillary recorded her 14th 20-point game of the season.
The point guards were the only two Patriots to attempt free throws, each shooting eight and going a combined 11-16.
“I had a massive migraine throughout the whole game, but I was just trying to get easy points,” said Grate. “We talked about getting easy points in transition and finding more ways to get more easy points throughout the game.”
3. Offense is important, but defense is also critical.
“I thought we used all levels of our offense to get the win but we guarded, we guarded, we really guarded today,” Milleson said.
One player they guarded particularly well was Lauren Cannatelli. She came into the game averaging 13.5 points per game and scored just eight points on 10 shot attempts against Mason.
“Cannatelli is one of the best guards in the conference, she is one of the best 3-point shooters in the country, and she did not have a three today,” Milleson said.
4. Threes can sometimes come from someone unexpected
The Patriots came into the game averaging nearly six threes per game, and though they made just three against the Flyers, each one was unique.
The first three came halfway through the second quarter from Jewel Triggs, who has made just two other threes this season.
The second three came from Allie McCool shortly before halftime and was just her third three of her career.
The third three was the game-winner from Cardaño-Hillary. This buzzer-beater came off of an inbounds play after Dayton tied the game with just 2.4 seconds to go.
“I wasn’t worried about who was coming, I was just focused on that shot so it feels great,” Cardaño-Hillary, who said she had never made a buzzer-beater before, stated. “I mean all my team running up and hugging me and cheering for me, that’s an incredible moment that I’ll never forget.”
“That was exactly [what I drew up],” said Milleson. “It was to get the ball to Nikki [Nicole Cardaño Hillary] … I kind of thought maybe she’d put the ball on the floor but also I mean that’s her game is, that little step-back three. She was on balance, she was on rhythm … Some games they go and some games they don’t, and we’re fortunate today that Big Shot Nikki made a big shot.”
The Patriots return to the EagleBank Arena to take on Saint Joseph’s University on Feb. 27 at 4 p.m.