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Foresters stay perfect in Pink Out games

FUNDRAISER: The Huntington University women’s basketball team presented the Vera Bradley Foundation with a check for $2,019 following the Foresters’ 68–66 Pink Out win over Mt. Vernon Nazarene on Saturday afternoon.

by Eric Andrews - eandrews@h-ponline.com

The RV Huntington University women’s basketball team squeaked out a 68–66 Crossroads League victory over Mt. Vernon Nazarene on Saturday afternoon at the Foresters’ annual Pink Out game in Platt Arena.

The win lifted Huntington’s season record to 15–10, including an 8–6 Crossroads League mark. The triumph also improved the Foresters’ all-time Pink Out record to 11–0.

The first quarter of play featured evenly played basketball, as neither the Foresters nor Cougars could string together a streak of points through much of the period. However, Mt. Vernon Nazarene managed to close the quarter on a 5–0 run, including a buzzer-beating three-pointer to pull ahead with an 18–15 advantage after the first quarter.

Much like the first quarter, the game’s second frame was marked by back-and-forth action, with the teams exchanging basket for basket throughout the period. With the Cougars holding a three-point lead with 2:32 left in the half, the Foresters went on the first extended run of the game, a 7–0 stretch to close the half capped by a three-pointer with two seconds remaining by junior forward Sarah Fryman to give Huntington a 37–33 lead at halftime.

Another 7–0 stretch for the Foresters late in the third quarter gave them a 51–46 lead, but a 4–0 streak by Mt. Vernon Nazarene closed out the quarter to cut the Huntington lead to 53–52, again highlighted by a buzzer-beating basket.

Mt. Vernon Nazarene outplayed the Foresters at the beginning of the fourth quarter, eventually grabbing as large as a six-point lead in the fourth quarter at 66–60 with just 3:11 to play. However, Huntington refused to lose their Pink Out game for the first time, instead going on an 8–0 run to finish the game, highlighted by a go-ahead three-pointer by senior guard Maddie Richer with 27 seconds left in the game.

Richer’s basket proved to be the game-winning shot, as the Cougars could not score again, resulting in the 68–66 win for Huntington.

“I still don’t really know how (we won the game) other than we got a huge stop by Sarah Fryman when we needed it and a huge three by Maddie when we needed it,” said head coach Lori Culler of the Foresters’ comeback victory. “That was pretty cool to see. … We’ve never lost on Pink Out Day. I was wondering if this might be the first at a certain point. It is hard sometimes when you get down with the end of the game approaching and to not lose hope. It was really great to see us come up with big stops when we really needed them.”

Huntington leaned heavily on three of their veterans to pull off the comeback win, as Fryman, Richer and senior forward Brooke Saylor all posted impressive offensive performances.

Fryman led the Foresters with 21 points in the game. Fryman also grabbed four rebounds and three steals and handed out a pair of assists.

Saylor recorded 17 points for Huntington to go along with a team-high 12 rebounds for a double-double. Saylor also handed out five assists and tallied three steals and one block.

Richer’s 16 points finished the scoring podium and double-digit production for the Foresters. Richer rounded out her afternoon with two rebounds, one assist and one steal.

Sophomore guard Sam Hammel drained eight points for Huntington and posted game-high totals of six assists and four steals as well as snagging three rebounds and blocking one shot.

Freshman guard Sara Doi scored four points off the bench for the Foresters, while senior guard Mikala Avina capped Huntington’s offensive output with two points.

Taylor Gregory tied Fryman for the game lead with 21 points for Mt. Vernon Nazarene. Gregory also dominated on the glass, reeling in a game-best 18 rebounds. Gregory also swatted four Huntington shots to lead all players in the game in the category and swiped one steal.

“If we’d play them again, we’d probably do something different every time just to try to keep her guessing,” Culler said. “The thing that hurt us the most today wasn’t her size; it was her three-point shooting. She came into the game shooting I think 26 percent from out there and (went) 4–7. … Her rebounding, too, is a factor. She’s only a sophomore, so we’re going to have to put up with her for a couple more years for sure.”

Dani Ellerbrock buried 14 points for the Cougars, while Maggie Coblentz and Rachel Perry completed Mt. Vernon Nazarene’s double-digit producers with 13 and 11 points, respectively.

With the game being Huntington’s annual Pink Out game to raise funds and awareness for breast cancer, Culler decided to go the extra mile for the event with a special touch for the Foresters’ uniforms for the afternoon.

Entering the year with the intention of using their uniforms from last season, the Foresters had a last-minute change with their home jerseys, as last season’s were illegal due to the coloring of their numbers.

Rather than letting the old uniforms go to waste, Culler figured the Pink Out game was a good opportunity to make the most of the forgotten jerseys by filling in the previously white numbers with pink.

“I had some help,” Culler said. “My mom, my sister-in-law, my niece and a friend of mine helped me paint them with fabric paint. I knew (the players) would be excited about it, so I gave them out to them last night. We actually found out yesterday that my mom has cancer, and she was really excited to find out what their reaction was because she helped paint (the jerseys) and she knew I thought they were going to really be excited about (the jerseys). … So today had a little extra special meaning. It’s just a struggle ahead for (my mom). It’s not breast cancer, but cancer nonetheless, so today, (the team) told me they were playing in honor of her, so that was pretty cool, too.”

Since the game served as a fundraiser for the Vera Bradley Foundation, all admission as well as some concession sales were designated as donations for the foundation to help aid breast cancer research.

Following the end of the contest, the Foresters’ four seniors, Avina, forward Casey Morton, Richer and Saylor, presented a check for $2,019 to the Vera Bradley Foundation.

“It’s something that we do talk about: Trying to get the focus off of us and on to some others that have had real struggles in life and have been victorious,” Culler said. “We want to celebrate that and recognize that. Twenty-year-olds think they’re invincible and nothing bad is ever going to happen to them. When they get an opportunity to know some family members or see so many people who have overcome (that), you want to just go out and try to play hard for them and give them something else to celebrate on a day when it’s about them.”

The Foresters will return to action on Wednesday, hosting Goshen in another Crossroads League matchup. Opening tip-off is scheduled for 7 p.m. in Platt Arena.