Clutch play propels Gators to victory at home

Team earns another close victory headed into conference play

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Junior Heidi Goeller faced off against Wooster center Jessica Wingen on Wednesday night, capturing her second double-double in the last two games. ANDREW CRAWFORD/THE CAMPUS.
In a close game at home Wednesday night, strong performances from key players would aid the Gators in their 57-56 victory at home.

Sophomore Erica Restich took a last second charge that would help the squad seal the win.

“Erica is a playmaker,” said Head Coach Kate Costanzo. “You always look for players to step up when you need it most.”

Opening the second half ahead by six, the Gators would lose their lead with 6:24 remaining, but junior Ann Ryan quickly responded with a jumper to tie the game. Heidi Goeller, ’13, added a layup to give the Gators a two-point lead, but it would be Restich’s performance in the closing minutes that would seal the victory.

Restich sank a three-pointer to put the Gators up by five, giving the squad some breathing room.

“I was thinking ‘Thank God!’”, said Goeller. “It was a good team win though, and it’s good we have players this season who are unafraid to step up and take that last shot.”

While Restich’s shot was the last basket for the Gators, the game was far from over. Wooster would drew within one, but Restich took a charge with two-tenths of a second left on the clock that sealed the victory.

Restich credits the team’s efforts on the defensive end for holding Wooster after her final shot.

“It was our team’s effort defensively, especially after that possession, that stopped them from scoring in the final second when they had a chance to win it,” said Restich.

The beginning of the first half was a struggle for the Gators, who at one time trailed by seven after hitting only four of their first 17 shots. A strong defensive effort by the squad ultimately resulted in a 15-0 run that gave the Gators an eight-point lead.

Costanzo employed a defensive strategy focused around Wooster center Jessica Wingen, who is a strong presence underneath for the Fighting Scots.

“We knew they would be trying to get the ball inside to number 44 [Wingen], who gave us problems all night,” said Costanzo. “So if they got the ball inside to her our objective was to double team her, try to prevent them from getting into her and to double team her late in the game when they’re setting screens for their perimeter players.”

Goeller played an integral role in stopping Wingen on the defensive end.

“[Goeller] knew she had a tough matchup on number 44 and I think she did a pretty good job on her,” said Costanzo. “Whenever she [Wingen] was having most of her success it was because our pressure on the perimeter defense wasn’t strong enough to make those passes inside more difficult.”

Goeller had a career-high six blocks against the Fighting Scots.

Junior Daryl Ford battles for a loose ball. ANDREW CRAWFORD/THE CAMPUS.
“Defense is my primary concern,” said Goeller. “If I can win my matchup and not let the other team’s post player beat me then we have a better chance of winning.”

Goeller was also a strong presence on the offensive end, earning her second consecutive double-double with 11 points and 12 rebounds.

Restich and junior Daryl Ford added 14 points each in the win, and contributed defensively as well with Restich’s four steals and Ford’s seven rebounds.

In the days ahead, the Gators will continue to work on their consistency on the defensive end.

“Our team defense has to improve if we are going to continue to win games,” said Ford. “We will have to be more intense on the court for 40 minutes instead of just toward the end when the score is close.”

Costanzo emphasized the impact of winning close games early in the season.

“It’s good to be in competitive games this early in the season,” said Costanzo. “You learn a lot more from the games where you win by a bucket or two than games that you win by 20 or you lose by 20.”

“The win and success definitely gives us more confidence when we find ourselves in a close game situation again,” said Restich.

Looking ahead, the Gators hope to get a strong start in conference play.

“We have three conference games before winter break so we would like to go 3-0 in those games,” said Costanzo. “We know that every game in our conference is going to be a competitive game.”

The Gators will begin NCAC play on Saturday at Ohio Wesleyan at 1 p.m.