Slagus smashes expectations in women’s basketball season opener

Bri Pomonis, Staff Writer

The Bison women’s basketball team commenced its 2016-17 season with a 2-0 road sweep against Binghamton and Saint Joseph’s. It is no surprise that the team accomplished this, as they were selected to top the Patriot League in a poll of the league’s coaches and sports information directors.

“Picked to finish at the top of our league is a great feeling especially with how even the league is and how anyone can beat anyone on any given night. I think this ranking shows us how teams respect what we have done last season and all the work we have put in during the off season,” Kaitlyn Slagus ’19, reigning Patriot League Rookie of the Year, said.

The season kicked off Nov. 11 against Binghamton in Vestal, N.Y. Seeking the 500th win in program history, the Bison began their season at full force. The offensive damage mainly took place on the inside, with the Bison outscoring the Bearcats 40-12 in the paint and 23-7 off offensive rebounds. Suné Swart ’17 set a career-high record of 25 points, 19 of which were scored in the first half. With about six minutes left during the first quarter, she came off the bench to hit a 3-pointer in a little over a minute. She proceeded to score nine straight points in around two minutes, bringing the Bison to an 18-15 lead.

“I wasn’t aware of how many points I was scoring, and I never try to think about that,” Swart said. “I feel like I was in the right place at the right time for a lot of the offensive rebounds which turned into put-backs or foul shots. My teammates made some pretty amazing passes to me under the hoop, too,” Swart said.

Swart, Slagus, and Claire DeBoer ’17 combined to score every point after the first half, putting the Bison ahead 40-36. Despite taking a solid lead midway through the third quarter, the Orange and Blue’s lead would prove to be a challenge to maintain, as Binghamton managed to narrow the score within four points up until just under nine minutes left in the game. DeBoer drove to the hoop to make a basket. After DeBoer missed a free throw, Swart was able to get the rebound and kick it out to Kyi English ’19 for a 3-pointer, boosting their lead by five points. The game finished with the Bison topping the Bearcats 67-57. Slagus tallied her second career double-double with 17 points and 16 rebounds, as well as contributing seven offensive rebounds to the team’s total of 16.

The Bison continued their season-opening road trip two days later at Saint Joseph’s, seeking to go 2-0 for the first time since the 2008-2009 season. Dominating the paint again proved crucial to staying within comeback range, with the Orange and Blue finishing 42-28 in the paint. Dynamic duo Swart and Slagus combined for a total of 42 points and 18 rebounds, totaling roughly two-thirds of the team’s final 64 points. The Bison remained behind the vast majority of the game until taking the lead with 43 seconds remaining. After the first quarter, the team was behind 23-10, largely in part to an uncharacteristic eight turnovers. Despite this early stumble, the team crept up on the Hawks to gradually close the gap throughout the remaining three quarters. Trailing 59-57 with just over a minute and a half left, DeBoer made one of two free throws.

Swart grabbed a defensive rebound on the other end and came back to make both of her free throws, giving the Bison a one-point lead. English similarly sank two more. Saint Joseph’s responded with a bucket, but Slagus secured a victory by completing two points from the line.

“There were many thoughts racing through my head when I was on the line at that point. I kept telling myself it’s just like practice and I have nothing to be nervous about, and trying not to think about the score and the impact my free throws had on it,” Slagus said.

The game ended with the Bison achieving their long sought-after 2-0 opening series with a score of 64-61.

“Winning a close game at Saint Joseph’s was an amazing feeling. Finding out afterwards that we haven’t been 2-0 since 2008-2009 just added to the great feeling,” Slagus said. 

This season the team welcomes three first-years and sees the return of key players, including Preseason Patriot League Player of the Year DeBoer, Megan McGurk ’17, Swart, English, and Slagus.

After hosting New Jersey Institute of Technology for the Bison’s home opener Nov. 17, the Orange and Blue will take on a string of competitors, including North Carolina and Elon.

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