Like pangs in expanding legs and arms, the SF State Gators women’s basketball team is experiencing growing pains with their second loss during the California Collegiate Athletic Association/Pac West Challenge tournament they hosted Dec. 10 and 11.
The Notre Dame De Namur Argonauts and the Gators, both with 1-5 records, played the last game of the tournament.
The biggest difference between the teams was the Argonauts focus and desire to win, which led to the Gators losing 56-47.
Both teams failed to gain leverage in the first three minutes of the game as the Gators and the Argonauts made several shot attempts without success.
As both teams wrestled with rebounds, missed layups and jump shots, the Argonauts gained a momentary upper hand when they stole the ball back from freshman forward Sherika Miller after Miller initially stole it from Argonaut Laura Zasly.
That moment allowed the Argonauts to drive the ball back to their end of the court and make a 3-point basket after two missed jump shots and rebounds.
“They have a confidence that our girls lack,” said head coach Joaquin Wallace. “They play hard in their zone and they’re quality players.”
That quality allowed the Argonauts to start their 12-point run as the Gators struggled to stop them.
With 13 minutes on the clock, sophomore Michaela Booker finally ended the run with a layup after stealing the ball from Argonaut Laura Zasly.
But the end of the drive only brought more competition from Notre Dame de Namur as they kept the pressure up.
Before the Gators knew it, the Argonauts were leading 24-6 with nine minutes left in the first half.
The Gators spent the rest of the time trying to close the gap. They got close to eliminating the deficit when freshman Angela Van Sickel sunk a 3-point shot into the net, bringing the score to 26-22.
However, the Argonauts reciprocated by making their own 3-point basket in the last 40 seconds, ending the half leading 29-22.
“We had a good first half,” said freshman point guard Erica Greer. “But in the second half, we began to crumble.”
The team fell apart as the Argonauts outshot the Gators in the second half, maintaining their lead for the entire game, despite attempts to close the gap.
The loss really hit home for Greer.
“We’re not focusing enough,” Greer said. “We’ll work on focusing through the entire game. We are a young team but we can only say it so much.”
After missing the prior weekend’s games due to a knee injury, Greer came back to the swamp, playing point guard.
“It’s my first year playing point guard,” Greer said. “When you have the coach yelling at you, it’s a mental drain on you, it’s a challenge.”
While Greer played most of the game, the drain was evident as she only scored three points in 12 attempts. On the other hand, freshman Angela Van Sickel had a career high of 14 points.
“It’s definitely a big step in my confidence level,” Van Sickel said. “Once we get going, nothing will stop us.”
One of the biggest challenges facing such a young team – which cycled out seven seniors last season – is learning to play together as a team.
“Basically, you’re taking kids who’ve never played college basketball,” Wallace said. “We don’t know how to play as a team. It’s all on-the-job training.”
But the team is improving with each game. The turnover rate four games ago was 29, which the Gators minimized to 11 against the Argonauts.
“I think they’re meshing fine,” Wallace said. “We have a long way to go, and we’re getting better with turnovers. I think they’re going to be a good bunch.”