The women’s basketball team defeated the North Florida Ospreys 67-57 Saturday afternoon at Swisher Gymnasium in the second annual Jacksonville Thanksgiving Classic in Jacksonville, FL.
Sophomore guard Kayla Shaw scored 19 points to lead the Hawks, and senior guard Rhaiah Spooner-Knight scored a season-best 18 points. Sophomore forward Taylor Nason added eight and grabbed nine rebounds.
“It was great to get back on the winning side of things,” Head Coach Jenny Palmateer said. “We’ve been playing really hard and our effort has been there, but the execution hasn’t been there enough to get the win. I thought today we really cracked down on the defensive end and were able to shut down their go-to ideas, and that made all the difference in the world.”
Monmouth started the game out strong, forcing the Ospreys to call a timeout early in the first after jumping out to a five-point lead. The teams would then trade baskets the rest of the quarter, with Monmouth’s lead reaching as high as seven. Freshman forward Carol Arfinengo scored her first career points in the final seconds to give Monmouth a 17-11 lead after ten minutes.
The Hawks maintained their lead into the second quarter, and then used a push late in the frame to open their advantage. Sophomore forward Adriana Zelaya knocked down a three-point shot with 1:32 remaining to make the lead 12, and then Spooner-Knight hit a jumper to make the halftime score 33-19. That plus-fourteen margin was the largest lead at halftime that the Hawks had all season.
In a 1:06 span, Spooner-Knight scored on a layup, and Shaw connected on a three to open the Monmouth lead to 19. The Hawks continued to get the baskets they needed throughout the period, but North Florida scored six straight points to bring the game within 12, 48-36, after three quarters.
Monmouth’s lead hovered in double-digits for over eight minutes of the fourth quarter, but in those final two minutes the Ospreys began to challenge the Hawks. With 1:24 remaining in the game, the lead was trimmed to eight, which was the closest North Florida was since the 2:47 mark of the second quarter. Using late free throws from Shaw and junior guard McKinzee Barker, the Hawks sealed their second victory of the season.
The Hawks shot 42 percent from the field and 31 percent from three, while shooting just 63 percent from the free throw line. Monmouth outrebounded North Florida 49-40, which was the third-straight game where the Hawks outrebounded their opposition. The Hawks led for over 35 minutes, while the Ospreys never had the advantage.
With the free throws in the final minute, Barker has now hit 36 of her last 38 free throws, including all 12 she has taken this season. Sophomore guard Alaina Jarnot matched a career-high with seven assists, and junior center Erica Balman matched a career-high of ten rebounds for the second-consecutive game. She has also grabbed at least eight rebounds in her last four games.
“This win is a small representation of what we have coming this season,” Balman said. “We have a lot of pieces coming together as a unit and will continue to grow and prosper with each new matchup we face.”
The game was the second day of a back-to-back for the Hawks, who fell to Jacksonville University 74-65 Friday afternoon.
The victory on Saturday is the second on the season for the Hawks, who improved their record to 2-4 on the season, snapping a four-game losing streak. They hope to build off of the win as they travel to play Navy Thursday night. Tip is slated for 7:00 p.m.
PHOTO COURTESY of Karlee Sell