Women’s Basketball drops season finale to Midway

Third quarter breakdown dooms Grenadiers against superior Eagles offense, led by Callahan’s 33

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Brandon Miniard

Freshman guard Leah Miller gets a body check from Midway’s Ta’Tayana Outlaw, drawing a foul in the process during the Grenadiers’ season finale on Feb. 20.

Brandon Miniard, Sports Editor

While the Kentuckiana area is starting to recover from the past week’s winter surge, its effects can still be felt on the IU Southeast Athletic Department’s calendar.

Five athletic events were originally scheduled for Saturday, Feb. 20, including the home openers for softball and both tennis squads. Those events were canceled in advance due to the winter storms, while men’s basketball had their season finale against River States Conference rival Midway postponed due to COVID-19 concerns.

That left the IUS women’s basketball team as Saturday’s sole attraction to the Grenadier faithful, hoping to conclude the not-so-regular season with a victory over the Eagles. The Grenadiers were mostly even with the Eagles throughout the first half, but myriad miscues and poor defensive plays against a lethal perimeter offense proved costly as the Grenadiers fell 89-77.

“We had a bad third quarter because we were throwing the ball away,” Head Coach Robin Farris said. “We made some costly turnovers, and [Midway] came down and hit threes off those turnovers.

The contest started evenly contested, with the Eagles utilizing interior scoring while the Grenadiers relied on back-to-back triples from guard Emmy Ralph. The Eagles’ defensive intensity, alongside 11 points by forward Allyson Callahan, helped fuel an 11-4 run, helped the Grenadiers push their lead to 24-16. A field goal from guard Lauren Lambdin concluded the scoring from either side, chipping the deficit to 24-18 to end the period.

The second quarter saw the Grenadiers their offensive fortunes improve, outscoring the Eagles 23-15 in the period courtesy of Ralph’s third triple of the half and a pair of threes from guard Josie Woods. A field goal by Lambdin and a pair of free throws from center Hannah Corus gave the Grenadiers a slim 41-39 advantage before retreating to the locker room.

“[In the second quarter] we had to play in 2-3 zone because in the first quarter, we played man-to-man and [Midway] shot sixty percent,” Farris said.

The Grenadiers started the second half, maintaining a slight edge over the Eagles, a Collette Nice layup increasing the advantage to 51-46. The Eagles answered with a 19-4 surge, led by triples from Callahan, Emma Gutman, and Jill Enix. The Grenadiers’ helped contribute to this massive run as well, courtesy of seven miscues in the period.

Triples from Kindall Talley and Jalyn Jackson helped the Eagles build the deficit into double digits, but Emmy Ralph concluded the period by converting a three-point play, cutting the Eagles’ advantage to 65-58.

Both sides struggled to score against each other for the first two minutes of the final quarter as the Grenadiers tried to get back into the contest. Their best chance to do so came when Lambdin converted on a three-point play, followed by a Woods field goal to cut the deficit to 78-71 with 2:54 to play. That’s as close as they could get, as late free throws from Jackson and Callahan brought the lead back to double digits before the final buzzer rang.

Callahan led the way for the Eagles (13-7) with 33 points, including 19 in the second half, while also notching eight rebounds and three assists. Jackson and Leah Shelley each chipped in 13 points, the latter also pulling down five boards. The only statistical area where the Eagles had a clear advantage was their shooting, finishing the contest by shooting 50.8% from the field against the Grenadiers’ 47%.

“We’re not a very good defensive team,” Farris admitted. “A lot of that has to do with [the fact that] we’re not big, and we’re not ultra-quick at all positions. So when we come across a good offensive team, we’re challenged.”

Five Grenadiers reached double figures, led by Ralph’s 18, followed by Lambdin’s 16 points and a career-high eight assists. Nice posted a career-high 14 points while Woods posted a double-double with 12 points, 10 rebounds, and five assists in her final regular-season contest. Wing Kirstie Henn rounded out the Grenadiers’ top performers with 11 points, nine rebounds, three assists, and three steals.

“Midway has a great team, and they stretch out their defense which makes it harder for [our] offense [to get going],” Ralph said. “Once we started penetrating the gaps, we were able to find openings and get shots off [to keep it close.]”

With the loss, the Grenadiers finish the regular season with a record of 5-5. After the contest, Farris revealed that part of the Grenadiers’ issues in the second half was due to a lack of practicing the past week’s winter weather. As many Grenadiers commute to IUS from both sides of the Ohio River, the inclement weather made it difficult to get the entire roster together for practices when they weren’t canceled.

“We only had one practice where we had everybody [this week],” Farris said. “We didn’t practice Monday, got canceled Tuesday, couldn’t practice Wednesday, had six or seven people Thursday, then we finally got everybody there [Friday], so we didn’t get to practice much [this past] week.”

Despite the loss, the Grenadiers can finally put a highly unusual regular season behind them. Due to COVID-19 concerns since the season started, the Grenadiers have been able to play just 10 games between a four-month hiatus that lasted from Nov. 13, 2020, until Feb. 2 of this year. The 10 contests played marks the program’s lowest total since its inaugural season in 1973-74 when Cynthia Hines’ squad went 2-6 in eight games played.

“It’s a great feeling to have been able to actually get a season in this year,” Ralph said. “It’s been tough with so many breaks and pauses throughout the year, but we’re blessed to have made it to the end of the regular season.”

With the regular season concluded, the Grenadiers now turn their attention to the RSC Tournament. The Grenadiers kick-off tournament action on Wednesday, Feb. 24 at 8 p.m., when they travel to Brescia for the RSC Quarterfinals after both squads drew first-round byes. The Grenadiers must feel confident having the Bearcats as their first-round opponent, having swept their two-game season series, including an 86-73 victory over the Bearcats at the Activities Building on Feb. 13. The Bearcats are currently 1-15 on the year and 0-5 on their home court.

Along with the Grenadiers and Bearcats, Ohio Christian (8-8) drew the third first-round bye for their side of the bracket and will await the winner of Alice Lloyd (8-6) and Rio Grande (15-7). Whichever team advances to the semifinals will depend on the outcome of the two quarterfinal matchups. If two teams that were the designated home or visiting teams advance to meet each other, then a coin flip will determine home-court advantage. Otherwise, the team that was the designated visitor during the quarterfinals will host the semifinal matchup.

“We’re very happy with the draw,” Ralph said. “I believe we’ll be able to make it far and hopefully win the championship and get an opportunity to go to the national tournament.”

Midway (13-7): Allyson Callahan 33, Leah Shelley 13, Jalyn Jackson 13, Kindall Talley 9, Jill Enix 8, Siera Graham 6, Ta’Tayana Outlaw 4, Emma Gutman 3

IUS (5-5): Emmy Ralph 18, Lauren Lambdin 16, Collette Nice 14, Josie Woods 12, Kirstie Henn 11, Hannah Corus 4, Alex Maher 2