Teammates step up and begin to find their game as season winds down
By Michael O’Donnell
Winter break left the women’s basketball team with a 5-6 record and sent the team into upheaval as they lost for the season their captain and third leading scorer.
Junior guard, Brittney Garmon, who averaged 10.5 points, 6.7 rebounds, 3.1 assists and 2.1 steals a game for the Saints, found out that she will undergo season-ending knee surgery after injuring it during The Saints Classic Basketball Tournament. Garmon will have surgery in the coming months and then have to endure six to eight months of physical therapy to be ready for next season.
“I was so upset at first. It was tough to sit on the sidelines and watch everyone play,” Garmon said. “I am so blessed, to at least have one more season of eligibility left.”
The Saints went through a similar situation when junior guard Alison Oates went down in the first semester of the season from a knee injury that took place last year before she joined the Saints.
With surgery and therapy behind her from the previous injury, Oates entered the 2006-2007 season with an optimistic outlook. Not everything worked out because when she began to play on her knee again, the pain returned. Thinking the pain would subside, Oates continued to play, but as the season progressed it became more intense.
“My knee hurt me throughout the season, but I played through the pain,” Oates said. In the 10th game of the season, against the University of Tampa, she only logged two minutes of play. The pain became too much for Oates and her tattered knee. She was finished for the season. A week after the Tampa game, Oates underwent arthroscopic knee surgery, hopefully to play next season.
“My game suffered because of my knee. I had trouble sprinting up and down the court; I could not get low on defense,” Oates said. “It was frustrating more than anything. I’m hoping this time around produces a better result. I cannot wait until next year.”
The Saints and Coach Sherri Abbey-Nowatzki realize that with the heart and soul of their team gone, it will take a major effort not just from one person, but the team as a whole, to pick up the slack that Garmon left behind. “We have seven new faces out of a 12-person roster, so we have a young team with limited depth,” Abbey-Nowatzki said. “We are not where we want to be, but we are getting there with a lot of teaching and nurturing.”
Depth, or no depth, the Saints have been getting the job done in the last couple of games beating Eckerd, Bluefield, Alice Lloyd, Webber International and most recently, Morris. They have a very talented trio leading the way, headed by senior forward/center Jamie Allenbaugh, averaging 15.8 points, 8.5 rebounds a game; sophomore forward Elizabeth Tuzzolo, 11.2 points, 6.4 rebounds a game; and junior guard Melanie Aguila, averaging 7.6 points, and 2.7 assists a game all as of Jan. 26
“With only 10 [healthy] players on the roster, the players know that they have to step up and stay together as a team for the 11 plus games we have left,” Garmon said.
With a new found sense of urgency, the Saints are putting together team wins and playing old school basketball — taking advantage of key situations, when and where it counts. The Saints are crashing the boards and playing tough defense. In an eight-game stretch in which they went 5-3, the Lady Saints averaged 41.5 rebounds per game, as opposed to their opponents 39.8 rebounds a game and are averaging 10.5 steals per game.
There are, however, some glaring holes for this very young Saints squad. According to Abbey-Nowatzki, the team collectively has had tough time playing 40 minutes of solid basketball. They have had a difficult time converting easy shots, posting a field goal percentage of .370. The majority of the team’s difficulties are making smart decisions with and without the basketball, reading the game and taking care of the basketball, indicative of a young team. They are averaging 23.2 turnovers per game.
“Good teams are going to battle on the boards and we are doing that well, but you are not going to win many games being careless with the basketball and not executing on offense,” Abbey-Nowatzki said. “We are an up tempo team and we are playing tough defense, which is keeping us in games — but we need to have more consistency, and that is what good teams do. They are consistent day in and day out. For right now, we are just taking it one day at a time, trying to get better and build a program.”