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Explorers' second unit leads La Salle women over Lafayette

11/23/2022, 12:45am EST
By Corky Blake

Corky Blake (@corkyblake)

EASTON – The La Salle women’s basketball team’s trip to Easton to play Lafayette on Tuesday night had all the trappings of a “trap game.”

Mountain MacGillivray (above) has La Salle at 5-2 on the season after beating Lafayette on Tuesday. (Photo: Josh Verlin/CoBL)

Explorers head coach Mountain MacGillivray dispelled that notion within a nano-second.

“Not at all. Maybe if we would’ve won our last game it could’ve been a trap game, but we were desperate for a win,” MacGillivray said after the Explorers departed Kirby Sports Center with a 71-54 victory over the 1-5 Leopards to improve to 5-2.

That last loss?

It was an 88-75 defeat to host Alaska-Anchorage in the championship game of the Great Alaska Shootout on Saturday. The night before the Explorers edged Pepperdine 83-81 in overtime to advance to the title game.

Yes … the Explorers were in Alaska. 

“They invited us last year, and I said ‘yes,’” MacGillivray said of the Great Alaska Shootout organizers. “None of us had ever been to Alaska. The girls went dog sledding. They saw a moose, a bald eagle, the most majestic mountains ever, that made the ones in Colorado look small.”

Still, there was that matter of the Explorers quickly refocusing to play Lafayette knowing they’d have a week off before their next game on Nov. 29 at home against Penn.

“We had a four-hour flight to Colorado (Denver) with a long layover before getting back (to Philadelphia) the next day (Sunday) at 3:30 in the afternoon,” La Salle forward Kayla Spruill said. “It was a long flight, but we had to make sure we won tonight coming off the loss and with the break coming up.”

MacGillivray continued his hockey-like, five-on, five-off shift changes every couple of minutes, and La Salle’s depth eventually wore down the Leopards. In fact, the Explorers trailed 15-12 after the first quarter and their only points from a starter came on Spruill’s layup off Amy Jacobs’ feed with 1:01 remaining.

Otherwise, it was the Gabby Crawford-led second shift that played the more effective minutes. By game’s end, Crawford, who shared team-high scoring honors with Spruill with 16 points, and the super subs had outscored the starting unit 50-21. Each starter played exactly 16 minutes, 13 seconds while Julie Jekot played the fewest minutes of the second crew at 19:07.

Gabby Crawford (above, against Drexel) led La Salle's reserve unit to a 50-point outing. (Photo: Josh Verlin/CoBL)

“I don’t care who does the scoring, whether it’s one through 12,” MacGillivray said. “Crawford and (Jaye) Haynes both started for us last year and Haynes started every game.”

Crawford’s pair of free throws prior to her two short jumpers vaulted La Salle into the lead for good at 22-21 with 4:58 remaining in the second quarter. Spruill took over from there with a layup off a Claire Jacobs pass and consecutive 3-pointers. Reserve Gabriela Falcao concluded the Explorers’ 9-2 run to end the half with a transition layup ignited by Mia Jacobs’ assist.

The 6-foot-2 senior Crawford, who began her career at Mississippi and transferred to Morehead State before winding up at La Salle last season, shot 6-for-10 from the field, 4-for-4 from the foul line to go with three rebounds and assist.

“I want to bring energy off the bench,” Crawford said. “Even if my offense isn’t there, I can do all the other things like taking a charge.”

Two Crawford field goals midway through the third quarter gave La Salle its largest lead of the game at 47-29. Lafayette never closed the gap to under 10 points the rest of the way. Mia Jacobs – part of the second five along with Crawford, Emma Egan, Haynes and Jekot – converted two free throws and a fastbreak layup to quiet the Leopards’ final threat with three minutes remaining.

“Now, it’s time to practice; we’ve had one practice in the last three weeks,” MacGillivray said of the upcoming seven days without a game. “We’ve got to work on our execution … not throwing the ball away to the other team. We’ve got a lot to work on. I really think we should be 7-0.”

“There’s always room for improvement,” Crawford said.

Making a point

With grad student starting point guard Molly Masciantonio (Archbishop Carroll) sidelined with an injury for the third straight game, freshman Fiona Connolly played the point with the first unit and classmate Emma Egan ran the show with the second group. What MacGillivray saw on the final stat sheet brought a smile to his face.

“Fiona had two assists and only one turnover, and Emmaus had five assists and two turnovers,” the coach said. “I’ll take those numbers every game. With Molly out they’re getting valuable experience.
“Tonight, I also was pleased with our rebounding effort. We outrebounded them 57-40.”

Freshman Mia Jacobs, the youngest of the three Jacobs sisters from Perth, Australia, led the way with 11 rebounds. Spruill grabbed eight and Amy Jacobs added seven.

The Explorers, picked to finish second in the Atlantic 10 behind defending champion UMass, play three of their next four games at home with the only “away” contest a short trip down Broad Street to Temple on Monday, Dec. 5.

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