This archived article was written by: Scott Froehlich
The regular season for the Eagles women’s basketball team has drawn to a close. The team rounded out the month with three games, winning one and losing the last two. It has been a roller-coaster ride for the team, full of highlights and disappointments, buzzer-beaters and shots falling short. Regardless the outcome of the season, the Eagles had a very memorable season and showcased a plethora of talent on their roster.
On Feb. 16, USUE hosted the Colorado Northwestern Community College Spartans in the final home game of the season. Before the game, the Eagles’ departing sophomores were recognized. Bryndie Ballam, Ashlyn Coleman, Ayanna Ford, Maile Richardson and Mateah Tuckett will all move on and have left a lasting impact on both their teammates and coaches.
“The sophomores have been great leaders. I will miss them and all that they have done for the program,” Coach Chelsey Warburton said.”
Heading into their game against CNCC, the Eagles were riding a wave of momentum that stemmed from the huge upset of the Salt Lake Community College Bruins the game prior.
USUE stormed out of the gate in the first half and seemingly hit every shot they took. Three-point shots played heavily in the success of the Eagles in the first couple quarters and the Spartans struggled to keep the game close. Both teams headed into the locker room at halftime with the Eagles leading 39-17.
In the second half, the Eagles continued to play well offensively and kept the Spartans at bay with a strong defense as well. Although CNCC started to find their game in the fourth quarter, and started chipping away at USUE’s lead, it was too little too late. The Eagles fended off the Spartans and came out on top 82-67.
The team performed great as a group, and four players scored in the double-digits. Autumn Kay led the team in scoring with 13 points, and Madison Loftus had a double-double with 12 points and 11 assists. This win stretched the Eagles’ winning streak to three and completed a season sweep of the Spartans, defeating them in all four games this season.
Sara Morley commented on the game, and whether the recognition of the sophomores played into their performance.
“I think that our team wasn’t really bothered by the fact that it was Sophomore Night or not. We were just prepared and ready to go,” Morley said.
Up next for the Eagles was a showdown with Snow College in Ephraim. Snow had USUE’s number in the first three games they met, with the last head-to-head ending with a last-second shot by Snow to win the game.
In their latest contest, the Eagles again struggled to solve Snow and had a rocky first half. The team only scored seven points in the first quarter, due mostly to turnovers and missed three-point opportunities.
USUE was uncharacteristically cold from behind the arc, missing all seven of their attempts in the opening stanza. From there, the Eagles were unable to recover and lost the game 62-50. With Snow’s victory, they swept their series with USUE and kept them from leapfrogging them in the standings.
For their final game of the season, the team traveled to face the College of Southern Idaho Golden Eagles.
USUE started the game red hot and quickly took the game to CSI. Led by Madison Loftus’ 18 points, the Eagles led 26-16 after the first quarter. They continued their offensive success to start the second and looked poised to come away with a victory.
CSI, however, woke up in the second half of the quarter and in the third to begin a comeback that no one would have seen coming. By the end of the third quarter, the Eagles gave up a 13-point and CSI led 48-47.
In the final frame, CSI held USUE at arm’s length and won the game 74-64.
CSI’s Brianna Osario was the main reason for the team’s comeback and gave the Eagles fits all night. Her 31 points led the way and she played well on both ends of the court. Despite the loss for USUE, Loftus scored a season-high 30 points and was also ever-present on the floor.
She reflected on the night and her outstanding performance.
“It was good [scoring 30 points], we played well as a team and I think we all had our open shots…when it’s falling that is a great thing. It was a fun environment, so that was good too,” Loftus said.
With the loss, the Eagles finished the season with a 6-10 conference record and 15-15 overall. Heading into the upcoming Division-18 tournament, USUE will face CNCC in the first round.
“We are going into the CNCC game confidently. We are preparing so we can have a 5-0 sweep over them…that’s the edge that our team is bringing,” Maile Richardson said.
The tournament starts Thursday March 2 in Taylorsville at 5:30 p.m.