By: Joshua Gerard Gargiulo
PHOENIX - Women’s basketball falls to 1-4 in conference play; as the bears are unable to contain reigning “Player of the Week” Kristen Quigley, losing to Chandler-Gilbert 78-72.
Sophomores Chloe Warrington and Ava Rauschen found their places in the game early. Warrington scoring multiple baskets from Tyra Euell-Long set-ups and Rauschen, on the glass. However, PC saw themselves down 21-13 by the end of the 1st quarter, mostly at the hand of “poor ball handling.”
Despite a slow start, the facilitation of Tyra Euell-Long allowed the bears to catch opponents off-guard, with their run-and-gun style of play. Vanessa Veloz aided in the bears’ efforts, off the bench, with 12 points; two above her average, on 5-10 shooting.
Heading into the fourth quarter they only trailed by four, 58-54. Keeping it close until the final minute, when two costly turnovers handed the game to Chandler-Gilbert.
The game plan against Kristen Quigley collapsed, as she managed to score 32 points in 35 minutes. She seemed to be a key-factor in Chandler-Gilbert holding their lead. Phoenix College saw themselves trailing by leads of two, five, and ten for most of the game. Every time they crept close, Quigley would net a 3-pointer or deep-two- in transition.
The key differences lie in a lack of free throws (7-9 from the line) and a multitude of turnovers (20 in total). Aside from steals and 3s attempted, the bears led statistically in every category. In fact, almost every game this season has seen the bears leading in half or more- of all statistics. But the one discrepancy is their inability to keep a handle on the ball, averaging 22.8 turnovers-per-game.
Statisticians would call it a “head-scratcher” that a team can dominate every team in FG%, assists, rebounds and steals could be 1-4 in conference. Until you look to the far right and notice an ugly 22 under the turnover count.
Phoenix College Women’s Head Coach, Kristine Kincaid calls these games “learning lessons.”
“When you are going through situations repeatedly and not learning, you are going to keep going through it. Right now, we are in that growth stage and growing through that game cycle. Turning the ball over is our thorn. It will be until they lock in and say, ‘alright, each possession, we have got to take care of it… We got to slow down a little bit.” Especially if we have missed a couple… It’s the small things,” Kincaid said.
The tale goes: Rome wasn’t built in a day. The tale reigns true with the bears’ struggles. The solution to limiting their turnovers starts with cutting them down by one, or two, each game. If they can get the turnovers down, into the teens, you are looking at a totally different team stat-wise.
The nine-year head coach of Phoenix College sees an extreme up-side in this team. Tabbing this squad as one of the best during her tenure. Seven players are averaging above five points-per-game, with four of those seven in practical double-figures. Led by Chloe Warrington (10.4 ppg), who came one rebound shy of a double-double in Saturday’s game; and Vanessa Veloz (10.2 ppg), who has been a key offensive weapon. PC has also found help from Freshman Alyssa Marin, who is third on the team, with an average of 9.1 ppg. Sophomore center Lea Mutoni has recorded four double-digit games of 15, 13 and 12 (x2), averaging 8.8 ppg.
Kincaid has had the pleasure of coaching four players who were awarded five All-Americans honors: Fran Nimes, Antoinette Miller, Alexis Delgado (x2) and Jazmine Covington. She has high-praise for her current players.
“These kids, when they latch on and figure it out. And they go, ‘hey coach, I wanna work to this. How can I get this?’ It’s good. And we got some kids that are hungry, that want that. But now, instead of one, I have a group of kids. So that’s the part, that for me, is optimistic and that I’m looking forward to. Not only having one that can contribute, we got a lot. Which is great,” Kincaid said.
The secret weapon for Phoenix College is often the quietest in the stat line- Melody Medlock. A lockdown defender who resembles the likes of Tamika Catchings in her defending. Her work ethic goes unmatched with anyone on the team.
The nine-year head coach cites Vanessa Veloz’s offensive prowess as a great “alter-ego” to Medlock’s supreme defense. The 1-2 punch for Phoenix College allows for Medlock to shut down top players; while Veloz’s range can either keep the bears in the game, or even extend leads.
Rebounding numbers are floating around mid-table for Phoenix College- 8th in conference. Kincaid would like to see her numbers in the 40s, averaging 32- currently. She notices small issues, whether it is getting caught standing around, or not putting a body on someone.
“You don’t have to be an All-American to get into position. It’s a lot of the little things.”
With four players averaging above four rebounds, if the bears could see Centers Lea Mutoni and Alyssa Marin’s rebounds boost by one-or-two, they could see another key, putting them on the other end of the final score. However, Kincaid exclaims that it truly comes back to “taking care of the ball.”
“This is a crazy conference. One of the most competitive I have ever been around, and this is starting my ninth year. This is the most craziness at the beginning. To say us and Pima are at the bottom is unheard of. To say Chandler-Gilbert is second in our conference is not what anyone would have projected. That’s not to say Chandler-Gilbert isn’t good, but TO (Tohono O’odham) just beat Central (Arizona), Pima beats Central, and then Western (Arizona) beats Mesa. There is no rhyme or reason.”
The numbers are going to shift. 1-4 in conference may sound frightening, but the bears are only three games out of first-place. In past years, some games were “gimme games,” but now teams are matching-up better. Phoenix College and their head coach are glad these hiccups have come early. As soon, these games will become more-and-more crucial. It is early in conference play, and it is time to lock in and handle business.
Women’s basketball continues their homestand this Wednesday, against Scottsdale Community College, at 4:30pm. Before the winter break commences and the bears’ will be on a two-week hiatus. They pick up action December 27th-29th in the Phoenix College: Holiday Classic.