QUINCY — The way the final four minutes of the first half Saturday afternoon tilted decidedly in McKendree’s favor, there could have been serious concern in the Quincy University women’s basketball team’s locker room.
Instead, there was dogged determination.
“The players talked about in practice how we have to come out in the third quarter with tons of energy and be aggressive,” Quincy coach Jeni Garber said. “It’s what they were saying at halftime, too.”
It was more than just talk.
The Hawks blitzed the Bearcats with an 8-0 run to start the third quarter and then used a 9-0 run midway through the second half to propel them to a 68-63 victory in Great Lakes Valley Conference action at Pepsi Arena. It ends a season-opening 10-game losing streak, the worst such stretch since the 1997-98 season.
“I’m proud of the way they’ve come out every day in practice and still work hard and compete and learn and grow as a team,” Garber said. “It’s not an easy thing to do when you don’t have the outcomes you want, but they keep showing up. That’s what they do every day.”
The challenge has been to do it with consistent energy.
That got away from the Hawks late in the first half. Quincy led 29-24 with four minutes remaining when the offense went silent as they missed four shots and two free throws and committed two turnovers. It allowed McKendree to go on a 7-0 run and take a 31-29 lead into halftime.
Dami Adeyinka and the Hawks refused to let that be a tipping point.
A steal by the junior guard on the opening possession of the third quarter led to an Emma Knipe putback and Adeyinka followed with back-to-back 3-pointers.
“I give that kid a lot of credit,” Garber said. “She did not have the best game and was really kind of timid, but she came out in the third quarter and set the tone for us. That was huge.”
McKendree (4-8) answered and ultimately regained the lead, going up by seven points on three separate occasions. However, Quincy freshman guard Jazz Evans made two free throws with 17 seconds remaining in the third quarter and turned a Bearcats turnover into a layup just before the buzzer.
A 3-pointer by Knipe to start the fourth quarter and a jumper by Evans gave the Hawks a 53-51 lead a minute into the fourth quarter.
“The energy they came out with was a competitive energy,” Garber said. “We keep preaching to them we need to be competitive and confident in what we’re doing and the results will come.”
The Hawks led by as many as six points in the fourth quarter and got key contributions from two seniors to put the game away. Maddie Spagnola hit a 3-pointer with three minutes to play to make it a five-point game, and Aleksandra Petrovic came off the bench with five seconds remaining to make two free throws to seal the victory.
Evans led the Hawks with 18 points, while Laney Lantz had 12 points. Amanda Porth had five blocks, six rebounds and three assists as the Hawks put together their most complete team effort of the season.
“We did a really good of not letting it slip away and finishing it,” Garber said.