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Falcons comeback falls short in last second thriller

February 12, 2019

The UW–River Falls Women’s basketball team dropped to 7-14 on the season following a last second 63-60 loss against UW–Stevens Point at Don Page Arena on Feb. 2. The Falcons came into the game at the bottom of the WIAC standings with a 1-9 record. The UW–Stevens Point Pointers came into the game second to last in the WIAC with a 4-6 record.

Both teams desperately needed a win in the game to begin their ascent in the WIAC standings before the season’s conclusion. The action began with one of the most difficult first quarters of basketball the Falcons had played all year. The Falcons trailed 13-0 six minutes into the first quarter. During that stretch the Falcons shot 0-8 from the field and amassed five turnovers by four different players.

Falcons Interim Head Coach Derek Staley said, “It came down to a lot of what we weren’t doing. We weren’t contesting enough shots, not finishing our good looks, and we weren’t executing very well either.”

The Falcons then showed the most resilience that they have had all season. Closing out the first quarter, they managed to stay in the game with a 10-2 run. Starting the second quarter, the Falcons had closed the gap to 17-10. The second quarter was 10 minutes of trading baskets and putting small runs together.

Neither team could establish a significant stretch of basketball and the Pointers would take a seven-point lead going into the second half. Coach Staley also talked about the Falcons first half performance and only being down seven, “It was a testament to how well we were playing defensively too, after that first stretch.”

At halftime the Falcons were led in scoring by junior guard Lori Wardynski with seven points. Wardynski provided a quick spark off the bench for the Falcons when they couldn’t get much offense going early in the contest. Coach Staley talked about Wardynski, “Lori has been out, she’s been hurt. Having her back has been a huge boost to us, she’s kind of that energy of our team.”

The difference in the first half of play came down to three-point percentage. The Falcons shot 0-7 from behind the arc in the first half compared to the 60 percent from deep for the Pointers.

The second half began with the Falcons trailing 28-21 to the Pointers. UWRF opened up the half with a quick 12-4 run led by Jenna Zeman who scored six of the 12 points in that stretch. Coach Staley said about Zeman, “Jenna has been playing consistently throughout conference play. She’s been doing a nice job, so she’s going to score.” The Falcons had finally battled back and took their first lead of the night.

However, it would be short lived. The Pointers would quickly recover, going on an 11-0 run of their own. This one constructed through the play of freshman Guard Amber Baehman, who led all players in scoring on the night with 20 on 60 percent shooting from the field.

The Falcons would once again bounce back with a 9-0 stretch to end the third quarter. Taylor Paulsrud would hit two back-to-back threes in that stretch giving the Falcons life going into the fourth quarter. The Falcons trailed 43-42 heading into the final quarter of play.

The Falcons and the Pointers would trade baskets for the first six minutes of the fourth quarter. Both teams would put small runs together for the next couple minutes. With just over one minute to play, the game was all tied up at 60. Bailee Collins would then drive into the lane and make a layup to put the Pointers up two points with 25 seconds to play.

The Falcons then setup their offense and Crystal Pearson took an open three pointer. It was just off the mark and was rebounded by the Pointers. Staley said, “Crystal had an open three, I’m really comfortable with her taking that shot, it just didn’t fall.” The Falcons then intentionally fouled to stop the clock.

The Pointers only converted one out of two free throws, giving the Falcons a chance to send the game to overtime with a three pointer. UWRF would run one play with a chance to tie the game. After going to three different Falcon’s, the ball ended up in Paulsrud’s hands with a chance to tie. She took a deep three from the left wing and came up just short.

Staley said about the final play, “There was four different options on that play. Jenna had an option, Lori had an option, a quick two option to crystal, and a three option for Taylor who was looping all the way through.”

The Pointers would hold on to win 63-60 in a last second thriller at Don Page Arena. The Falcons have their next game versus UW-Whitewater on Feb. 16. Tipoff is set for 3 p.m. at Don Page Arena.