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Crossroads tourney
First round, today
All games 7 p.m.
No. 8 Spring Arbor at No. 1 Saint Francis
No. 5 Marian at No. 4 Grace
No. 7 Bethel at No. 2 Huntington
No. 6 Taylor at No. 3 Indiana Wesleyan

Undefeated St. Francis women set for new-season reset

The relevant numbers, suddenly, are no longer “30” and “0.” As of now, only the “0” means a thing.

That’s because the 30-0 Saint Francis women open the Crossroads League basketball tournament at home tonight against Spring Arbor, and that means the reset button has been set. Thirty straight victories without a loss are just something cool that happened. Outside of that … crickets.

“The only thing 30-0 helps us do is it means we get to play at home,” head coach Gary Andrews says. “It doesn’t help us do anything else.”

What will help them is what’s helped the Cougars all season, which is an impenetrable tunnel vision that’s made looking ahead seem like the gravest of sins. If it was the secret weapon behind 30-0, it’s now their most potent weapon for 0-0.

“Since the beginning of the season, we’ve taken it one game at a time one time, and when we won that game, prepare for the next,” says guard Skylarr Shurn, who Monday was named the Crossroads League Women’s Basketball Player of the Year. “And I think that’s what you have to do, because on any given night a team can beat you. So you can’t really look ahead. You’ve got to focus on the team at hand.”

That’s so ingrained that Shurn says the notion of individual awards such as player of the year never crossed her mind, that her entire focus was on preparing for Spring Arbor, which was 11-19 and 6-12 in the conference and lost twice to the Cougars by 15 and 18 points during the regular season. Andrews says this is the best Saint Francis team he’s ever had in that regard, and in others as well.

“This team just really bought in, they really listened,” he says. “When I tell them something, they just really buy in and say ‘OK, that’s what coach says, that’s what we’re going to do.’ They’ve done a really good job of that.”

They’ve also done really good job, obviously, of simply refusing to lose.

“I think it’s really important for every player and every coach to have that focus and that mentality that we’re not going to lose or we don’t want to, and just do everything in our power,” guard Jenelle Wilson says. “None of us want to lose; I guess you could say it’s just stubbornness or just toughness. I think we just do whatever it takes to pull it out.”

There is, after all, a bigger picture, tunnel vision or not. The Cougars, in addition to never being 30-0, have never advanced beyond the NAIA Final Four.

No time like the present, they figure.

“The regular season is great, and it’s great to be 30-0, but that’s not our final goal that we want to accomplish,” Wilson says. “We want to get the big tournament, the national tournament.

“So I really think we are kind of resetting and refocusing (in hopes) we’ll be able to make it further than what we have here in the past.”