When St. Catharine College went to a four-year athletic program in 2008, among its options was a move to NCAA D-II status. The Patriots chose the NAIA affiliation instead but last weekend the Patriot women got a look at what might have been had the school selected the other route. And head coach Lena Bramblett was pleased with what she saw.
Bramblett’s Patriots journeyed to Louisville over the holiday weekend where they played at Bellarmine University in the MetroMedical Solutions Thanksgiving Classic. On Saturday they beat the University of Southern Indiana 73-69 and Sunday they held on for a 73-70 win over the host Bellarmine Knights. In beating the two D-II opponents, St. Catharine’s record improved to 9-1 while both the Knights and the Screaming Eagles fell to 4-1.
“We were able to beat two very good basketball teams,” beamed Bramblett after the winning weekend. “Anytime you can beat NCAA teams it is big, especially two quality programs like those.”
In Saturday’s four-point win over Southern Indiana, the Patriots led nearly the entire first half before settling for a 36-36 tie at the intermission. They trailed by as many as five points in the second half but took the lead for good with 3:21 to play when Janae Howard, the tournament MVP, hit two free throws to make the score 68-67.
The Screaming Eagles cut a four point deficit in half with two seconds to play at 71-69 but Reilly Poirier, who made the all-tournament team along with Howard and Kasei Evans, sank two free throws to seal the win.
Howard led all scorers with 32 points and also grabbed a game high 11 rebounds. Poirier added 14 points and six rebounds while Evans had nine points and eight boards.
The Patriots found themselves in another tight game Sunday afternoon as they pulled out the 73-70 victory over Bellarmine. They looked to be on the way to an easy win with an 11 point lead midway through the second half after leading 36-31 at the break. But the Knights chipped away and cut the lead to two points twice in the final minute.
A free throw by Carol Ruiz-Lopez with four seconds left gave St. Catharine a 73-70 lead and a three-point shot by the Knights’ Allison Matheis fell just short at the buzzer.
Howard led four Patriots in double figures with 19 points. Poirier had 15 while Evans and Machera Calhoun scored 13 and 10 respectively. Evans also had 10 rebounds as the teams ended even in the rebounding category at 41 apiece.
“We didn’t play as well Sunday as we did Saturday but we found a way to win,” said Bramblett. “Our post game was solid both days but our frontcourt didn’t play that great on Sunday.”
The Patriots’ only loss of the season came last Monday in the Mid-South Conference opener when the visiting Rio Grande RedStorm claimed an 82-81 victory in overtime. Ruiz-Lopez had a potential game-winning shot from 40 feet rim out at the buzzer.
“Obviously the conference games are the most important,” said Bramblett. “But I think that loss helped us to win both games this weekend. “That showed our players that we have a whole lot of work to do before we reach our potential.”
St. Catharine has a lot of work to do in the next few days as they hit the road for two conference games. Thursday they are at Georgetown who is 7-1 overall and 2-0 in the conference. Saturday they are in Portsmouth, Ohio to play Shawnee State (6-2, 2-0) who is ranked fourth nationally.
The Patriots are back home Monday with a non-conference tilt against Berea College.