The Horace Greeley girls’ basketball team returned to action late last Tuesday afternoon for the first time since letting a winnable game against Byram Hills slip away in the last seconds.
So maybe it shouldn’t have been much of a surprise that the Quakers were in no mood to let visiting Fox Lane entertain any thoughts about repeating what the Bobcats did to them.
“I don’t know if it was a chip on their shoulder or they were just annoyed at hearing me yell at them the last week,” said Quakers head coach Sarah Schum after her players had handily defeated their neighbors to the north. “But they definitely had something under there today.”
Brianna Gadaleta scored a game-high 22 points, Michaela Santelia finished with 18 and Safia Gecaj added 13 as the Quakers cruised to a 59-41 victory over the Foxes, who got five 3-pointers from Natalie Pence, but not a lot of offense from the rest of the roster.
The Quakers used a 16-2 explosion that bridged the first and second quarters to open up a 25-7 lead and never looked back. They led start to finish and built a 24-point advantage late in the third quarter on Santelia’s final basket of the game. Fox Lane, trailing 32-20 at halftime, never got closer than nine points in the second half.
“It’s incredibly frustrating,” said Fox Lane coach Kris Matts about watching his players get dominated on the boards by the Quakers. “I see my girls and I know how much skill they have. But we just give the other team five, six, seven shots a possession. And that’s a recipe for disaster if ever I heard one.”
Pence had already scored five of her team-high 19 points for the Foxes before Greeley went on its huge first-half run, starting with a foul-line jumper by Santelia with 3:15 remaining in the first quarter. Another basket by Santelia, this time from in the paint, with 1:25 to go in the period gave the Quakers their first double-digit lead of the day, 15-5.
By the time Fox Lane finally scored points in the second quarter, on two free throws by Pence with 3:46 left in the half, the Greeley cushion had increased to 18 points. A 3-pointer by Holly Ades, followed by a top-of-the-key, 18-foot jumper from Melanie Matts, moved the Foxes to within 27-17 with 90 seconds left, but the half ended with Gadaleta providing a 3-pointer from the right wing to increase the Quaker margin to a dozen points.
“We knew what they were gonna do,” said Matts, who wasn’t surprised by the strong start from the Quakers. “What they lack in shooting ability and skill, they make up for in determination and defense. They’re in your face all the time and my girls backed down from them, I thought, on a lot of possessions. We got better at certain points during the game, got some turnovers and some quick baskets. But, as a rule, Greeley pushed us around tonight and that’s their strength.”
The second half began with Pence rattling in a 3-pointer from the left wing that narrowed the gap to nine points. But Greeley soon responded by outscoring the Foxes 19-4 over a five-minute stretch that ended any doubt about the outcome. Santelia had 10 of the Quaker points during the burst.
“Michaela can do it,” Schum said about her unheralded senior forward. “She’s unexpected to most, but not to me. She shows it in practice all the time. I wish she would do this more often.”
Pence connected on a pair of 3-pointers in the first minute of the fourth quarter, but in between them the Quakers’ Gadaleta also struck from beyond the arc and Fox Lane was never able to reduce its large deficit below 16 points. Back-to-back baskets from Gecaj and Maddy Negroni midway through the final period assured there would be no late-game collapse this time from the Quakers.
“They’re the hardest-working team in Section One, I really believe that,” said Schum about her Quakers. “I expect a lot out of them and they work very, very, very hard. Some days the ball goes in, some days it doesn’t. But I can never knock them for their effort. I’m really happy to be on this journey with them and I’m excited that we still have 15 more games.”
Matts, who appealed to his players’ pride at halftime, is hoping they can step it up a bit more in the 2019 portion of their schedule.
“I graduated from Fox Lane, and I told ‘em, ‘Losing to Greeley at any time is unacceptable,’” he said. “’But being down this far because we’re not boxing out, because they’re outworking us, that’s unacceptable.’ I was happy with the response to a degree, but the bottom line is if we don’t start making changes in rebounding, team defense and aggression, we’re gonna have a long season.”