The Plattsburgh State women’s basketball team staved off Norwich’s late comeback attempt to win its first game of the season 59-52 in Memorial Hall tonight on the back of senior Bella DePasquale’s double-double performance.
The Cardinals (1-0) set the pace early with two back-to-back transition threes from junior guard Christina Testa.
“[Norwich] sure didn’t know what to expect,” associate head coach Ben Sarraf said.
PSUC focused heavily on its offense in the preseason, and it showed in the first quarter against the Cadets (0-1).
The Cards scored 20 points in the first, many of which came in transition.
From the opening tip to the final buzzer, PSUC never trailed, but the game was far from a sure win.
For the second and third quarters, the Cards scored only 11 points in each as Norwich chipped away at PSUC’s lead entering the fourth.
“We got a little complacent,” Cole said. “Instead of having that killer instinct like ‘Let’s bury them,’ we said, ‘Oh, we’re going to win.’”
What Sarraf believes the young team lacked in the game’s final stretch was composure.
“We missed a lot of easy shots,” he said. “The last six minutes of the second quarter is when the wheels came off the bus offensively.”
The Cards shot 3-for-22 from the field during the second quarter, with an 8-minute lapse between the final two field goals of the quarter.
PSUC’s long-range offensive struggles followed into the third quarter. This time, the Cards’ shots were only a few seconds into the shot clock, creating multiple fastbreak opportunities for the Cadets.
DePasquale’s double-double and shooting from deep kept the game in PSUC’s hands. Nine of DePasquale’s 11 points came in the second half, but it was freshman Kayla Doody’s three-pointer that broke the tie 53-50 with 1:51 left in the game.
Doody, alongside fellow freshmen Ly’rell Walker and Kelly Degnan, played significant minutes down the stretch of the close game. Despite some expected nerves in their first game, the freshman have already earned their coaching staff’s confidence, having each played large roles in their respective high school programs.
“They bring a championship-caliber type of attitude to the table,” Sarraf said.
Junior Taylor Durnin’s two free throws with 14 seconds left sealed the game for the Cards.
Junior Frannie Merkel is happy with the team’s win, but recognizes there’s room to grow.
“We have a lot of things to work on,” she said, “but we got the dub, so we should be proud of ourselves, because [this game] showed how far we’ve come from last year.”
Defensive intensity and sticking to the motion offense are keys Merkel, as well as the coaching staff, takes away from tonight’s game.
“We can’t be satisfied with how we just won that game,” Sarraf said of the win.
PSUC next plays in the Cardinal Classic Nov. 11, when they will face New England College in the first round.
Cole is upbeat from the first win of the season and sees a lot of potential in the team, but the coaching staff will be making more tweaks.
“If this is the worst we play, I’ll be happy with that,” Cole said. “We can only get better from here.”
Merkel leads through health challenges
Junior forward Frannie Merkel finished last Saturday’s game against Norwich with 9 points in only 13 minutes of action for the Plattsburgh State women’s basketball team.
For the last two seasons, Merkel has been a centerpiece for the Cardinal’s offense. She finished her freshman season averaging 11.8 points per game and nearly 9 rebounds per game.
Moving forward, she would continue to be a focal point of the team in circumstances allowed. But last season, health issues forced Merkel to adjust her role on the team drastically.
Due to Merkel’s medical condition, she fatigues much quicker, limiting how many minutes she can play. PSUC’s coaching staff limits her play between 10 to 20 minutes, depending on the game’s intensity.
“It was really, really frustrating to the point where I didn’t know if I wanted to do this anymore,” Merkel remembered feeling when she first learned how it would affect her on-court ability. “But it’s totally worth it. These are my best friends and my family and I want to be around them all the time.”
Encouragement and understanding is what Merkel found in her teammates and coaches in her tough time.
“They care more about me than basketball,” she said.
Basketball is much more than just a sport to Merkel. It’s a time to destress and focus away from things happening off the court.
“[Basketball] is like my temple,” she said.
Merkel has come to accept her new role on the team, but she always stays competitive and vocal as a leader for the team. More than anything, Merkel wants to win.
“I’m still competing to play. I’m still a part of the team,” she said.
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