By Matthew Pagels | email@example.com
Score one for the record books. In Flagler College women’s basketball 2013-14 season opener Monday, senior point guard Williesha “Shorty” Spencer broke Flagler’s all-time individual record for points scored in a game with 44 points. Heidi Nissen last set the record on Dec. 11, 1991, when she scored 39 points vs Ed. Waters.
Spencer tied Nissen’s record by making one of two free throws with :48 to play in the second half against the Saint Leo Lions. She would surpass it on her second free throw attempt, putting her at 40. She went on to make two more shots in the final 30 seconds to get her to a total of 44 points.
Spencer was very humble on breaking the 22-year-old record.
“To me (it) is an accomplishment, but being that we lost, it’s not something to celebrate,” Spencer said. “The key to breaking a record and feeling accomplished is to carry over the outcome of a win, and we fell short. I can’t really celebrate it because there’s nothing I wanted more than to win.”
Even with a historic night from the Saints’ captain, Flagler couldn’t pull off a win against the Lions.
The Saints came out on fire to start the game. With a couple of buckets from Shelbi Lindsey and Passhayla Williams, along with two forced turnovers and two steals (one by Lindsey and the other by Latesha Johnson), the Saints started off with a 7-0 lead. But 17:29 in the first half would mark the last time they were in control.
“We started strong, but I feel like we relaxed too much on defense,” Spencer said. “We had breakdowns and couldn’t convert.”
For the next three minutes, Saint Leo stepped it up and made four consecutive baskets and a couple of free throws to go up 12-7. It seemed as if for every time the Saints inched closer, the Lions would make a swift escape, connecting on a couple of shots to extend its lead.
“They did a good job at converting, pushing the ball and most importantly, hitting the open shots,” she said.
The closest the Saints came to tying the game was at the two-minute mark in the first half, when they cut the lead to two with a three-pointer from Spencer, making it a 38-36 ball game. Saint Leo would then go on a run and end the half up by 10 (48-38) after some key baskets from Erin Higgins and Chelsea Williams.
“Shots weren’t falling and we were getting out rebounded in the first half,” Spencer said. “It was mental lapses we had as a team and we basically started beating ourselves.”
The Saints did come back strong in the second half trying to chase down Saint Leo’s lead (51 of its 89 points came in the second half). With :32 remaining, Spencer hit a clutch short jumper that cut the Lions lead to four.
“I knew I had to start setting my teammates up for their shot, or either attack and take the shot if it was open,” Spencer said.
The next play Saints center Treva Mason fouled guard Teresa Manigrasso, putting her to the line at the :27 mark. Manigrasso made one of two free throws, making it a four-point deficit (90-85). After a defensive rebound by Saints guard Christina Brown, Spencer drove to the basket for a quick lay-up with 15 seconds left, bringing the score within three (this would be the closest it came to retaining the lead since the end of the first half). With 10 seconds to go, Saints forward Simone High intentionally fouled Chachi Guzman in desperation.
Unfortunately for the Saints, Guzman hit both free throws making it 92-87, ending any chance of a comeback. Spencer put up a three with five seconds left but missed, as Lindsey got the offensive rebound and ended the game with a lay-up (15 total points on the night). But that wasn’t enough as Saint Leo fended off Flagler’s furious rally, beating them 92-89.
“The loss hurt; but the good part about it is we will see this team again and try to redeem ourselves,” Spencer said. “We can’t wait for the last two minutes of the game to attempt to fight our hardest to come back. We should’ve kept that pressure in the beginning minutes.”
Spencer ended the game with 44 points in 38 minutes, shooting 14-of-35 from the field (40 percent) and hit 4-of-14 from the free-throw line (28.6 percent). She added four rebounds, three assists and four steals as well. On the other side of the court, Guzman finished with 22 points on 3-of-4 field goals (all three baskets were from behind the arc for 3-pointers). Majority of her points came off of free throws, as she was a perfect 13-for-13 from the line.
Saint Leo had an all-around better shooting night than Flagler. The Saints shot 35 percent from the field (28-for-80 FG) while Saint Leo shot an impressive 61.7 percent (29-for-47 FG). The Saints also shot 34.5 percent from three-point range while Saint Leo shot over 50 percent (57.1). The Saints did gain more blocks (3), steals (12) and rebounds (41) than Saint Leo.
Flagler is looking to continue its success off of last year. After nine consecutive losing seasons, the Saints achieved a winning record of 15-13 (10-9 conference) in 2012-13. The team also clinched its first ever Peach Belt Conference playoff birth since joining the PBC in 2009. According to the preseason coaches’ poll released by conference officials, the Saints are picked to finish third this year in the PBC. This is the highest a Flagler women’s basketball team has been picked since joining the league, according to Flagler Athletics.
“It’s early in the season and there’s so much more to come,” Spencer said. “I keep in my mind that this is my last year and last season. There’s a specific goal I know we all want to accomplish, and my mindset is (in) constant attack mode, because for us seniors, it’s now or never.”
Spencer finished the 2012-13 season leading the Saints in scoring (16.9), points (473), field goal attempts per game (13.9), field goals made per game (6.0), free throw attempts per game (4.5), free throws made per game (3.6), assists per game (4.3), steals per game (2.4) and minutes played per game (31.7).
According to the Peach Belt Conference website, Spencer finished fifth overall in scoring, averaging 16.9 points per game. She also ranked fourth overall in 3-point field goal percentage, shooting 40.7 percent from the three-point range. To add on to the offensive accomplishments, the Brooklyn star was selected to the 2013 Daktronics NCAA Division II District III All-Southeast Region second-team and was selected as the TraveLynx Student-Athlete of the Week three times last season.
Feature photo by Dyann Busse