Last season, the Premier Players handed the Hurricanes women’s basketball team a twenty-point loss at the Knight Sports Complex. This season, the Canes played host to the Premier Players again, and this time, they gave a much better effort in a 68-65 exhibition loss.
The ‘Canes trailed by just five points at halftime, so they were still in the game at that point, but they still were not pleased with a first half effort that saw the ‘Canes turn the ball over several times.
“In the beginning, we didn’t do well, so we wanted to come out and start the 2nd half well,” said point guard Yolanda McCormick.
However, they gave up a 20-8 run to open the second half, as the Premier Players pushed the lead to seventeen, their largest lead of the game. However, just when it looked like the ‘Canes were going to get blown out again, they came storming back, and closed the gap to one point on a Melissa Knight 3-pointer with 51 seconds remaining. Even though the ‘Canes went on to lose 68-65, they showed great heart in battling back.
“I just think that you look at each possession and start to chip away. We started to put our shots in and stopped turning the ball over, and anytime you do that and play hard on defense, you are going to be successful,” said Coach Ferne Labati after the game.
The ‘Canes had closed the lead to 66-65, and looked to be in business when Melissa Knight stole the ball with thirty seconds remaining. However, her pass to Hutashi Wilson was errant, and the Premier Players got the ball right back, hit their free throws, and won the game.
“We still have some inexperience at the guard position and that hurt us a little bit down the stretch. I think that you go through the situations that happened at the end of the game in practice and correct them. It’s a learning process,” said Labati.
The ‘Canes were led by foward Chanivia Broussard, who came off the bench to score 16 points, and Shaquana Wilkins, who recorded a double-double with 15 points and 10 rebounds. Wilkins scored 11 of her 15 in the second half of play.
Point guard Yolanda McCormick chipped in with eight points and a game-high 11 assists. However, senior leader Megan Saake struggled, going just 1 for 9 from the field after scoring 24 points in the first exhibition game.
“Megan Saake will have to be the leader of the team. She is the senior and the Big East player of the year… I think she lost confidence in the first half. She struggled and she took shots she wasn’t set to take, and she lost confidence, but we will correct that,” said Labati.
The ‘Canes could never find the answer to Houston Comets star Tynesha Lewis, who scored the game high 26 points, and was the key part of the big run by the Premier Players early in the second half that pushed the lead to seventeen.
“She’s a great player and the bottom line is we gave her too many good looks at the basket,” said Labati.
As for who will start at point guard when the season opens Friday, the jury is still out, but it does not seem to matter to the two girls involved in the race, Hutashi Wilson or Yolanda McCormick, who will start.
“It doesn’t matter who starts. I feel like she can do the job just like I can do the job. It only matters when I get in that I can go out to play and contribute,” said McCormick.
The key to the season opener Friday will be to come out and play disciplined basketball. If the ‘Canes take care of the basketball, they should be able to handle South Florida and start the season off on the right foot.
“We know to come out to play like a team and to play like we are going to win, we are together and we have been waiting for this day since we lost last season,” said McCormick.
As for the season goal, the Canes have just one mission, and Yolanda McCormick summed it up best when she simply said: “Big East Champs!”
You can reach Darren Grossman at email@example.com.