SPRINGFIELD – Alex Goslin opened the third quarter by sinking a 3-pointer. Then Lauren Rudolph followed. Then Steph Lyons. Then Rudolph sank another.
The Pride drained back to back to back to back 3-pointers, and went on a 12-point run to open the second half. Their energy was electric and Wheaton was unable to make up the deficit.
In the end, Springfield defeated the Lyons 63 to 40 Wednesday night in Blake Arena, advancing to 2-0 in NEWMAC play.
Springfield opened the game with an eight–point run. Though, the Lyons went on a run of their own, bringing the score to 8-7.
The Pride doubled-down on their defense from that point forward, and their defense led to offense.
Springfield College women’s basketball coach Naomi Graves shouted “Hands!” from the sidelines, as she often does whenever her team is on defense. But this time, just as the words left her lips, Goslin’s right hand picked off a pass from the passing lane. She flew up the court and drove to the basket on a fast break. The senior missed the layup, but sophomore Grace Dzindolet was right there to back her up and sink the points.
Springfield created a five-point lead by the end of the first quarter, and only built on that in the second.
The Pride went small early, with four guards and only one big.
“Grace rebounds really well so she was down low. But Rudy can play the four, and she reads it really well so on offense, Rudy’s the four,” Graves said. “We’ve been working really hard on this guard lineup and initially it was just for Emily (who’s currently out), but then once we started seeing the guard lineup in the press, we liked it so much and the run game, we liked it so much, and we made some adjustments and some aspects of transition so if we’re in a guard lineup, we can just go.
“One of the things I think our team is really committed to is conditioning, and so I said to them, ‘We’ve got to take advantage of our speed…'”
Dzindolet and Lyons took over late in the quarter, as the duo sank back to back 3-pointers from opposite corners.
“Steph is just, in a year and a half, has just grown into a really solid, I think very solid, very good, collegiate player, and every game, she becomes more confident. Every game, she looks at the shot, she looks at the basket, she finds her teammates,” Graves said.
“This is the fun part of coaching. Not just with Steph, but with a lot of the other kids on the team. But Steph has earned her starting position and tonight she did a great job shooting the ball from deep and giving up the ball to other people when we needed to. I mean, she’s playing great right now.”
The sophomore led the charge offensively, finishing the night with a team-high 14 points, which included two 3-ppointers, in addition to five rebounds, and three assists.
She wasn’t the only player who shot well tonight, though. In an electric third quarter, the Posse drained a total of five 3-pointers.
“I think we’ve been doing a lot of shooting and skipping and we’ve been really talking about teams playing off our guards,” Graves said. “And we’ve also been talking about how you want to stick it to them when they play off… they’re not convinced that we can shoot and so I think our guards have really stepped up. It’s just been fun to watch them evolve.”
This outside shooting frenzy came after the team picked up 20 out of its 34 points in the paint during the first half.
“The posts are going inside out,” Graves explained. “I think Sam (Hourihan) having a presence inside and Taylor (Hall), they take turns doing that, Maddy (Fay)’s kind of that enforcer, and Sis (Amanda Carr) had some really strong moves.”
The Posse was shooting lights out, both from deep and under the basket.
But the Pride executed their defense just as well, if not better, in the quarter. While Springfield picked up 17 points in the third, the team limited the Lyons to just three.
“I told them just in our zone to literally stand next to the person in their area, that’s it,” Graves said. “Because what was happening was we were ball-watching. Just staring at the ball and not knowing where we needed to be, so I’m like let’s just match.”
And they did. However, the work wasn’t done yet.
“Hey 30 seconds! Let’s go! Dig in!” Graves shouted, clapping and extending her own hands from the sideline.
It was about getting stops, one play at a time.
“Coach talked to us about stopping them for 30 seconds,” Lyons said. “We work on defense every day, so we knew that if we play good defense, it’s going to lead to our offense and that’s what we did. We got stops and steals and that’s what led to the lead that we got.”
Though, the gritty sophomore embodies this hard-working mentality much more often than just in Wednesday night’s game. According to Graves, Lyons fought hard to earn her starting position, and continues to hold this same mentality day in and day out.
“Steph is just growing and I mean honestly this is why we coach. Steph came in last year and said ‘what do I need to do to play more?’ and we went ‘x, y, and z,’ and she worked at it,” Graves said. “She got more time, and then we did the statistical stuff and she just shined. And she shined without that, but when I saw that, I was like. ‘We’ve got to feed this kid a starting position’ and she’s been there ever since.
“And she’s earned it, and she’s earned it the old fashioned way — by coming in, asking what I can do to be better, and then going and doing it. How many kids do that nowadays?
Lyons will look to lead the Posse again Saturday, as the team travels to Mount Holyoke for a 1 p.m. tip-off.