01/15/08 — Trojan women keep improving

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Trojan women keep improving

By Andrew Stevens
Published in Sports on January 15, 2008 1:48 PM

MOUNT OLIVE -- In the midst of a four-game losing streak heading into last weekend, Mount Olive's women's basketball team hadn't necessarily lost its way, but it was another defeat or two from breaking out the map.

With their most important basketball of the season yet to be played, the Trojans appear to be headed in the right direction after earning their second straight win, an 85-70 decision over Conference Carolinas foe Coker at Kornegay Arena on Monday.

"We've been trying to look at each game as not just wins and losses, but are we getting better?," Mount Olive head coach Wendy Lee said. "After tonight, I feel like we improved in a couple of areas. A few people that have been out are getting back in the groove.

"Chemistry for us is going to happen a little later than usual, but it's going to happen."

Mount Olive (7-7 overall, 5-2 CC) hit three 3-pointers in the first nine minutes and Tomeka Prichard's long ball put the Trojans ahead 20-10. After playing three straight games on the road, a return home seemed to do wonders for Mount Olive's shooting. The Trojans went 7 for 14 from beyond the arc and shot just under 49 percent from the field.

"When we can come out and get a couple of our guards to hit some big shots early, I think it does give a boost to our confidence level," Lee said. "I think a couple of these close games we've dropped recently have taken a toll on our confidence. Tonight was a good shot in the arm to get us pumped up for a tough three-game stretch coming up."

The lead grew to 15 at 25-10 before Coker responded with a 15-5 run. Temeca Spain and Henna Koponen scored back-to-back baskets, and Jessica Hayes and Lotta Aaltonen later added consecutive 3-pointers. The Trojans didn't help themselves with 14 first-half turnovers.

Mount Olive outscored Coker 12-6 over the final 5:48 of the first half. After struggling with the Cobras' full-court pressure early on, the Trojans began utilizing their speed in transition which led to numerous layups.

"I think our quickness in our guard spots does give us quickness in a lot of areas in attacking the press in particular," Lee said. "I was disappointed that we didn't finish more of those opportunities in breaking the press. I thought that came around eventually and we did a better job, especially in the second half."

Prichard and Brittney Robich opened the second half with 3-pointers on consecutive possessions, pushing the lead to 48-31. Prichard scored a game-high 20 points, guard Lakeisha Monroe had 16, Robich added 12 and Alisa Jones finished with nine.

The Trojans made 33 field goals on 23 assists and had 34 points off the bench to just 16 for Coker. Jones pulled down 10 rebounds, including seven on the offensive end, and Monroe had eight boards.

"I felt like we got contributions from a lot of different players," Lee said. "We want to get consistency. I thought Lakeisha Monroe contributed well, and maybe even more important were her eight rebounds. She rebounded with the big girls ... and other players contributed and made it a balanced attack for us."

Aaltonen's 3-pointer briefly trimmed the deficit to 59-50 but the margin wouldn't dip under 10 points the rest of the night. Before defeating Lees-McRae 68-63 over the weekend, the Trojans had lost their previous two contests by a combined four points. Learning to win tight ballgames as well as being mature enough to manage a lead are characteristics Lee is hoping her club will continue to develop.

"I think playing with a lead is one of the hardest things in basketball to do because the other team is fighting and they're not going to back down," Lee said. "At Lees-McRae I think pulling a close one out as helped us and now being able to win one by 10 to 15, and being able to keep that lead gives us a lot of experience with different kinds of ballgames."

The Trojans continue conference play Saturday at Limestone.