Saturday at Santiago Canyon College in Orange, the Westcliff University women’s basketball team took a moment before the national anthem to honor the memory of Destiny Gray, the sister of Warriors guard Simone Hall, who passed away over the winter break.
Since just before Christmas, the Warriors have missed one the most important pieces of their roster, as Hall has been with family in St. Louis.
But Hall returned the floor Saturday, and her passion and intensity was evident from the second she stepped on the court, and her teammates followed her lead, playing with a collective intensity that led to an impressive 76-69 win over Park University.
Park, which came into the contest a highly-respected offensive unit, was held to just 15, 13, and 14 points before exploding for 27 in the fourth to make a game of it.
Westcliff head coach Kyle Rouse felt the fourth-quarter letdown was a combination of tired players – the Warriors are missing backup point Maya Armenta, and starting point Mary Dishoian played the fourth with four fouls – but pointed to the first three quarter point-totals as the highlight of the night.
“I love our energy,” Rouse said. “Fortunately, with this group, we’ve never had to coach intensity. But we finally came out (with that energy) as a group.”
Tiffany Lucci taking a charge on a defensive rebound, and collecting a block moments later were the type of defensive plays that Rouse has been looking for up and down the roster, not just among the starting five.
All eyes were on Hall when she came off the bench in the first quarter, and she didn’t disappoint, providing instant offense by dropping her first two shots before handing out a nifty dime that sparked an 11-0 scoring run.
The Warriors were up 10 after one, 25-15.
“Having Simone back helps a lot,” Rouse said. “She scored eight and that was huge, but just having her on the floor – she’s a great defender, she can rebound as a guard – that was huge.”
Of course, the usual suspects got theirs too.
Lauren Davis was once again the best player on the floor, finishing with 20 on 8-of-16 shooting including 4-of-4 at the stripe. Davis added a pair of dimes, three steals and six boards as well.
Mammusu Secka wowed on the both ends, finishing with 16 points to complement six steals.
Murrellene Woodson filled the stat sheet, turning in 11 points, four assists and pair of steals.
“It was nice to see our shots start falling again,” Rouse said. “We were stressing high-percentage, high-quality shots, that’s all we want – and we did it, for the most part. Just that fourth quarter.”
Rouse said the Warriors stressed defense, effort, and attitude in the pregame, and no player embodied all three better than Dishoian, who ran the point like a true general.
Dishoian’s six dimes were well timed, properly spaced and led to easy buckets – pretty basketball, of the old school variety.
“Mary’s a captain, and it shows,” Rouse said.
The Warriors head out on the road today for a contest with St. Katherine in San Marcos. Tip is scheduled for 1 p.m.
To contact Brandon Petersen, e-mail email@example.com.