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Dominant third quarter lifts Taylor over Foresters

POINTS: Sophomore guard Sam Hammel scored a game-high 18 points in Huntington’s 68–59 loss to Taylor on Wednesday night.

by Eric Andrews - eandrews@h-ponline.com

The No. 24 Huntington University women’s basketball team lost 68–59 to No. 10 Taylor on Wednesday night in Platt Arena, dropping the Foresters’ season record to 8–4, including a 1–3 Crossroads League record.

The first quarter featured a substantial streak by each team. After Taylor got out to an early 5–2 lead, the Foresters strung together a 10–0 run to gain a 12–5 advantage. Junior forward Sarah Fryman and sophomore guard Sam Hammel each accounted for five points in the streak.

The Trojans would respond in style, draining a trio of three-pointers as part of an 11–0 run of their own to close out the first quarter, holding a 16–12 lead.

When the second quarter began, it was Huntington’s turn to put together a big run, and that they did, outscoring Taylor 13–2 in the first 3:01 of the period to grab a 23–18 lead. The Foresters would go on to extend their lead to 32–23, but the Trojans would then go on a 9–0 run to even the score at 32–32 with 2:17 to play in the second quarter.

The teams each scored five points to finish the first half, with Taylor’s final three points coming on a three-point buzzer-beater from Meredith Deckard to send the game to halftime at 37–37. The Foresters outscored Taylor 25–21 in the frame, with Hammel leading Huntington with 11 points at the break.

However, the third quarter was all Taylor. The Trojans opened the period with a massive 16–0 run in the first six minutes of the quarter, eight of which came from Becca Buchs. The Foresters would stop the bleeding, but when the third quarter ended, Taylor had opened up a 59–42 lead after a 22–5 quarter.

“We just have had a few games where, all of a sudden, we just cannot find somebody that can put the ball in the hoop,” said head coach Lori Culler. “And our reaction to that is not a good reaction. We fall back on our heels, we stop having the focus that we had when we’re scoring and causing some turnovers. Everything changes when that happens and we have to figure out how to fix that because the teams in this league are too good to have a five-point quarter. You’re not going to win games when you score five points in a quarter against anybody. I felt like we just totally lost our focus and that’s all they needed to create some distance and that was going to be too big of a gap to close for us.”

Huntington put together a push in the fourth quarter to make up the deficit, beginning the quarter with a 14–4 run, bringing the score to 63–56 in favor of the Trojans with just over four minutes to play. The Foresters had a trio of chances to cut the deficit further, but were unable to convert on any of the shots, including a three-pointer by senior forward Casey Morton that would have trimmed the Taylor lead to just four points.

The Trojans would answer with five straight points to push their lead to 12 points, putting the nail in Huntington’s coffin at 68–56 with a little over one minute to play. When the final buzzer sounded, Taylor had earned the 68–59 victory.

“It’s a little frustrating in some ways, because you know we can play with anybody,” Culler said. “We play at different levels and we need to figure out how to play at this level. When we get into conference play, everything, the intensity level, just ratchets up astronomically. We just have to be able to meet that intensity level for 40 minutes. I don’t think that we’ve put 40 minutes together in any of our conference games yet, and in order to beat teams in this league, you have to do that and be consistent. We have just not been consistent.”

Hammel posted a game-high 18 points for Huntington, adding eight rebounds, six of which were on the offensive end, a game high.

Senior guard Maddie Richer drained 14 points for the Foresters, while dishing out a pair of assists. Richer led the Huntington defense with a trio of steals in the losing effort. Fryman finished the game with 13 points and Morton scored 11 to round out Huntington’s double-digit point producers.

Senior forward Brooke Saylor also hauled in eight rebounds, tying Hammel for the team lead. Freshman guard Sara Doi paced the Forester offense with a trio of helpers, while the duo each tallied a pair of steals for Huntington.

Buchs and her sister, Abby, co-led the Trojans in scoring with 17 points apiece, while 2017–18 NAIA First Team All-American Kendall Bradbury was limited to 14 points in the victory for Taylor. Bradbury managed to reel in a game-high 11 rebounds for the Trojans. Deckard finished the double-digit scoring for Taylor with 11 points off the bench.

“Overall, (Bradbury) scored 14,” Culler said. “That’s below her average; I was very pleased with that. The thing that we just didn’t do well was close out tight enough on shooters. And then when we did, we knocked them over and gave them free throws. We don’t play too many teams that play that style of offense. … They’ve had games where they’ve shot the ball well and they’ve had games where they haven’t shot it well. We make teams look like All-American teams a whole lot of the time. Their shooters took it to us tonight.”

The Foresters will look to rebound from the defeat on Dec. 8 when they host Grace in another Crossroads League matchup. Opening tip-off is set for 1 p.m. in Platt Arena.