The banged up Leopard women’s basketball team made their first appearance at Frantz Athletic Court of the 2011-2012 season in a 75-72 loss to NAIA Linfield, dropping their second game in three days on Nov. 21.
After a lopsided 90-50 defeat at Vanguard Nov. 19, the fatigued Leopards faced an obstacle in Linfield, which was led by senior guard Gretchen Owens.
“Honestly we’ve got to get healthy,” head coach Matt Rogers said.
“(Amanda) Copas played with a dislocated finger and a 100 degree fever. I think a healthy team is a different team.”
Rogers emphasized injury as the biggest problem currently plaguing his team.
The team featured only one true post player on the court during the evening in junior Tyne McClure.
The shorthanded squad opened an early 6-2 advantage.
The Wildcats stormed back to take a 16-9 lead with 10:15 left to play on a jumper by sophomore forward Kaely Maltman.
The Leopards substituted early and in bulk, with full five player lines coming in and out throughout the first 10 minutes of the opening half.
La Verne battled back to a 16-13 deficit until a three-pointer by Owens broke their stride.
Going into the locker room the Leopards stared down a 32-29 deficit.
“We weren’t looking to swing the ball quickly,” Copas said.
“On defense we weren’t sitting down in our stance, letting them go by and get easy shots towards the basket.”
Coming out of the break La Verne took it to the visitors, creating a 13-4 run that spanned 4:41.
The hotstreak extended a 42-38 lead for the green and orange.
A big part of the streak was six made free throws across 2:09, which highlighted a 14-16 effort at the foul line during the second half.
“We made some simple adjustments to our offense and defense,” Rogers said.
“We tried to be more aggressive.”
Things looked up for La Verne before Linfield tied it at 46-46 on a three-pointer by Owens.
Owens nearly finished the night with a triple-double with 20 points, 12 rebounds and nine assists.
“We were pushing the ball and being more aggressive and being more efficient,” Copas said.
“We played smarter than the first half,” senior point guard Raphaelle Buenafe said.
From there it was anybody’s game until the Wildcats finally took a 61-54 lead with 6:27 left that forced Rogers to take a timeout.
After the heated timeout the Leopards chipped away at the Wildcat lead.
A series of free throws by Hurd and junior forward Amanda McGinnis led them to a 71-69 deficit, their smallest of the second half.
“We were just looking for the open man and taking the right shots and not rushing,” Copas said.
“We were picking up our defense and not giving them easy shots.”
Key steals in transition by the Leopards led to chances that could not be converted.
With time running thin La Verne fouled to stop the clock, which allowed the Wildcats to shoot free throws.
Owens finished three of her four chances at the line with 20 seconds remaining that sealed the victory for the visiting team.
“We have little lapses and by getting rid of them we can swing the momentum of the game in our favor,” Buenafe said.
Looking forward the team has room for improvement in places that cannot be fixed by looking at X’s and O’s.
“I think our energy is getting better but nowhere near what it should be,” Rogers said.
“We’re a long way from where we should be, but we’re getting there.”
The Leopards next play at 7 p.m. today at Chapman and return home on Tuesday at 6 p.m. to face San Diego Christian.
Daniel Hargis can be reached at email@example.com.