By Michael Otero
On Thursday, Feb. 6, the Women’s Basketball team (15-5) squared off against the District of Columbia Firebirds (14-4) in a battle of the East Coast Conference’s top two teams. The Pioneers came out on top with a 74-72 win from Pratt Recreation Center in Brookville, N.Y.
The Firebirds came out of the gate strong, grabbing a 13-5 lead in the game’s first seven minutes. Junior forward Denikka Brent, who scored six points during that run, led them. That run to start the game by the Firebirds was matched by a 14-2 response by the Pioneers, giving them a 21-15 advantage. Later on in the first half, sophomore guard Quanisha Ratley came away with a steal and went coast to coast for the fast break score, as the Pioneers extended their lead to eight. In the closing seconds of the first half, Ratley again came up with a rebound and scored at the other end, giving the Pioneers a jolt of energy as the half came to a close. Entering halftime, the score was 34-27, in favor of the Pioneers.
At the break, sophomore forward Nyasia Davis already had 14 rebounds along with eight points. Junior guard Chelsea Williams got to the line six times, her aggressive play showed as she had eight points at the half. For the Firebirds, Brent was the high scorer with 12 and she also grabbed six boards. Defense was strong on both sides, as both teams had field goal percentages in the low 30s.
In the second half, the Pioneers extended their lead when Williams nailed three pointers on back-to-back possessions, giving them their first double-digit advantage of the game. The lead reached its peak at 12 when senior forward Shayna Gatling dropped in a layup, making the score 44-32 in favor of the Pioneers.
Looking to respond, the Firebirds answered with an 18-6 run that was capped with Brent’s layup, tying the game at 50 with 8:45 left. The two teams had three ties after the 8:45 mark, as neither team was able to pull away. The Pioneers had a slight edge of just one with under a minute remaining. Williams converted six clutch free throws to help the Pioneer efforts, and a late three pointer by the Firebirds was not enough as the Pioneers came out with the narrow two-point victory.
For the Pioneers, Williams and Ratley combined for 26 points in the second half while senior guard Alexis Peters dished out five assists. Davis totaled 19 rebounds and scored 12 points, notching her first double-double this season, and also setting a new career high for rebounds. The Firebirds had three players score double figures in the second half, led by Brent.
The Pioneers made several strides in the shooting percentages in the second half, recording higher totals in field goal percentage, three point percentage, and free throw percentage. In addition to their impressive second half shooting, the Pioneers also tripled their opponents’ second chance points for the game.
Coach Moore and the Pioneers are back in action on Wednesday, Feb. 12, when they hit the road to battle the Purple Knights from the University of Bridgeport. Tipoff is slated for 5 p.m.