The referees of Thursday’s game owe College of William and Mary Head Coach Debbie Taylor a victory, or, at the very least some tranquility. For the crew in pinstripes blew a call when a James Madison University player grabbed junior guard Kelly Heath from behind at the end of the game, giving Taylor her second final-second loss in as many games.
Before you say that referees don’t lose ballgames, know that the replay of the game shows a JMU player grabbing Heath’s arms from behind after Heath had rebounded Dawn Evans’ errant three-pointer with 3.9 seconds left. As her arms were pulled apart, Heath lost possession of the ball, which was picked up by Keisha Stokes and layed in for the games’ final basket.
With senior forward Dani Kell playing on one leg and the Tribe losing the war of attrition when it comes to healthy players, Taylor could use healthy bodies in her rotation right now regardless of production. Junior forward Lauren Aadland’s two-point, eight-rebound effort versus UNCW Sunday and last night’s eight-point, nine-rebound performance make her both healthy and productive, meaning she should be one of the first players off the bench come tournament time.
Senior guard Courtney Portell has not had the senior season as a two-guard many envisioned her having. But in her new position as point-guard/ main backcourt defender, Portell might be more valuable to this team than she could’ve ever been on the wing.
Taylor said Portell hates playing the point, but without her steadiness with the ball, she was the only person on the team with a positive assist-to-turnover ratio last night, and her defense on JMU’s Evans, the game would have been over far earlier than the last shot.
The Tribe used triangle-and-two and box-and-one defenses off and on Thursday night. Evan’s needed 20 shots to get 19 points and Jalissa Taylor only scored 11 on 5-15 shooting, meaning although the Dukes out-rebounded the Tribe 48-40 and scored 73 points, you have to consider the defense a success.
If freshman guard Taysha Pye continues to hit her step-back jump shot, she will be hard to contain. If she adds consistent three-point range to her game this summer, she will be unstoppable.
The College struggles more than any other team in the country with in-bounds plays. They usually throw at least one pass away a game that isn’t contested with heavy pressure on the inbounds. Tonight, it came after Portell’s free-throws on the intentional fall by Evans with 1:08 remaining.
Kell couldn’t get the ball in to Pye on the block from the baseline leading to a turnover and the start of the Dukes’ late game run.
It was an eerie scene at Kaplan when the referees went to check the monitor on the games’ last shot. The fans remained standing, and the Tribe players stood motionless in a semi-circle around the bench, no one talking or interacting with each other.
It looked as if the squad couldn’t believe the improbable had become the impossible by happening again.