As sophomore Courtney Swift rounded out the final note of “The Star Spangled Banner,” the horn sounded, and Emerson’s women’s basketball team took the court to face Johnson and Wales University.
The referee approached center court, and lobbed the jump ball into the air as Johnson and Wales guard Kaitlyn Lefort tipped it back to her teammates.
For the Wildcats, that was about all the success they enjoyed on the day.
The Lions completely outmatched its Great Northeast Athletic Conference foes, running away with an 83-52 blowout victory.
A quick glance at the scoreboard displayed what looked on the surface like a 31-point win. But head coach Bill Gould suggested it was much more, a sign the Lions were finally pulling out of an early season slump.
“We’re gaining confidence,” Gould said. “It didn’t matter who we were losing to. If we played the [Los Angeles] Lakers 30 times and went 0-30, we’d still be discouraged. But now we’re winning.”
The Lions season began with three matchups versus Top 25 Division 3 womens teams. However, after that tough stretch, Emerson’s schedule decreased in difficulty, including a recent conference stretch.
The Johnson and Wales win was the Lions’ fourth in its last four GNAC matchups, catapulting the team into a third place tie in the GNAC with Norwich University, and one game behind conference leaders Emmanuel College.
With only six conference games remaining on the Lions schedule, the team is in the thick of a tight race for the top spot in the conference.
“We moved the ball really well today,” Gould said, whose team dished out 18 assists on 25 field goals.
The Lions dominated in every facet of the game, scoring on the fast break, in the low post, and off perimeter shots.
“[Johnson and Wales] is a team that likes to get back and set up on defense,” said Gould, who urged his team to run the fast break many times throughout the first half following defensive rebounds.
When the buzzer sounded and the first half was over, consecutive three-pointers in the last 30 seconds by Amy Sherman, and Shannon Norton (at the buzzer) extended Emerson’s lead to 16, its largest of the half.
Johnson and Wales didn’t show any signs of life as the second half began, and an energized Emerson squad took full advantage stretching the lead to 31 before the game ended.
“The message was still the same before the game,” said Gould. “It’s not who we’re playing; it’s what we’re playing.”
As Emerson continues to reel in the victories, players have noticed a boost in morale in the locker room.
“Hopefully we can carry this confidence into games against better conference teams,” said DiNucci, who rang in a game- high 23 points, including seven three-pointers.
“They were running a zone which is just asking a shooter to shoot,” said DiNucci, who had many wide-open looks throughout the second half with no defenders in sight. “I practice shooting without getting guarded, so I guess I have no excuse.”
And while Emerson controlled the game behind DiNucci’s efforts, it was a well-rounded Emerson attack that proved to be too much for the Wildcats.
Kathy Andrade contributed yet another double-double with 20 points and 10 rebounds, and Shannon Norton continued to impress her coach coming off the bench to tally 16 points, and lead the Lions in minutes played at 31.
“Shannon Norton stepped up,” said Gould. “I hate to say it, but you expect those games from DiNucci and Kathy. They’re great players.”