Saint Francis 66, Spring Arbor 51

Saint Francis forward Brooke Ridley talks about Cougars tournament opener

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Saint Francis’ Jenelle Wilson works against Spring Arbor’s Kylie Townsley in the first half of Tuesday’s first-round Crossroads League tournament game at the Hutzell Center. Wilson scored 15 points as the Cougars moved to 31-0.

New season, same old Cougars

No. 1 USF wins tourney opener, improves to 31-0

– The regular season was history, they all said. But the beginning of the second season – tournament season – turned it into current events again.

The top-ranked Saint Francis women’s basketball team never trailed after Kalah Baer rolled in a short turnaround a minute in, never was even after Brooke Ridley scored to break a 2-2 tie, and the rest was all too familiar Tuesday night.

Ridley finished with 24 points, six rebounds and three blocks, head coach Gary Andrews used 13 players, and the Cougars went to 31-0 on the season with a 66-51 victory over Spring Arbor (11-19) in their Crossroads League tournament opener at Hutzell Center.

It was the Cougars’ third victory over Spring Arbor this season, all by double digits, and Andrews substituted liberally, as 11 players saw at least four minutes of court time.

“We wanted to get a lot of kids experience, because we never know who we’re going to need the rest of this tournament and for nationals,” said Andrews, whose team plays host to Marian at 7 p.m. Friday in the semifinals. “Part of it, too, is we were trying to get people opportunities. Some of them weren’t going in and playing as well as we needed, so we were trying to get some other people some opportunities.”

While they were doing that, Spring Arbor hung around for a while, trailing 39-34 with fewer than 14 minutes to play.

But then the Cougars dialed up the defense, ripped off an 11-0 burst to turn it into a 50-34 count, and Spring Arbor never got closer than 10 again.

The Cougars outrebounded Spring Arbor 46-38, limited the visitors to .313 shooting (20 of 64) and, across the last 14 minutes, held Spring Arbor to just 17 points.

“At halftime, Coach said we needed to pick up our offense and defense, and once we picked up our defense our offense would come,” said Ridley, who was joined in double figures by Jenelle Wilson (15 points) and Skylarr Shurn (14).

Saint Francis led 31-21 at halftime, thanks to a 9-2 run.

The Cougars were puttering along with a 22-19 lead with 4:47 showing, but then Shurn scored five points in the next 47 seconds to turn it into a nine-point game.

But in the second half, Spring Arbor twice got the lead down to five points before the Cougars took off.

“Give Spring Arbor credit,” Andrews said.

“They came out the first part of the second half and played well, and I think we missed like four, five, six layups there those first three or four possessions.

“We didn’t panic, though. We just kept playing and were able to stretch the lead a bit,” Andrews said.

A lot of that was because of Ridley, who scored seven straight points in the 11-0 run.

“I thought she really hit some shots when everybody else was struggling,” Andrews said.

“(We were) missing some easy shots, and Brooke went in there and put the ball in the basket.”

bensmith@jg.net

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