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Emerson unable to ground high-flying Owls

by Anna Buckley / Beacon Staff • November 29, 2012

Janissa Delzo drives past Westfield defenders as she rushes toward the basket.
Janissa Delzo drives past Westfield defenders as she rushes toward the basket.

Emerson women’s basketball was within reaching distance of Westfield State College the entire game, but just never caught up. Catherine Cloutier commanded the paint and inspired Emerson’s defense to stay competitive throughout.

With a little over two minutes left in Tuesday night’s contest, sophomore forward Cloutier delivered a powerful block that resulted in a turnover. The move allowed Emerson, which was trailing Westfield 45-50, to temporarily pick up the momentum as the Lions tried to make a comeback before the clock ran out.  

Throughout the game, Cloutier contributed a steal and two blocks to the Emerson effort, which she later said was an attempt to be more aggressive on defense to spark the team on offense. 

“A block really pumps up the team, so that’s what my plan was,” Cloutier said.

In the first half, the Lions found themselves consistently behind the Owls by a few points. Emerson’s offense lacked the tenacity it needed to close the consistent five-point gap that remained during the game. When the final buzzer sounded, Westfield walked away with a 59-52 victory, but a strong defense kept the Lions in it until the very end.

“Defense is what really got us going,” said Janissa Delzo, a freshman guard. “Our offense struggled, but the defense is what kept us in the game.”

In the last five minutes of the first half, the Lions’ defense allowed them to pick up the pace, bringing the score to 22-21, with the Owls leading by one. After a Westfield turnover and a chance for the Lions to regroup during a timeout with 11.3 seconds left in the half, freshman guard Sarah Takizawa-Maclean scored the basket that brought the Lions into the lead heading into the break.

Head coach Bill Gould attributed this change of pace to an increase in effort from the players.

“We didn’t really do anything except for start playing harder,” Gould said. “That was the game plan going in, that we needed to play aggressively, and for some odd reason, for the first 10 minutes of the game we refused to do that. And then we finally started playing a little bit tougher.” 

Senior Shannon Norton, who was Emerson’s top scorer of the night with 10 points, contributed the two final baskets of the game, which kept the Lions from falling completely out of reach of the Owls. 

Norton agreed with Gould, saying her team failed to play at a consistent level throughout the game.

“Right now, we’re definitely not as aggressive as other teams are, and we need to come out stronger in the beginning of the first half and the second half,” she said. “We need to definitely work on our shooting—our percentages are really low right now, and that’s what’s holding us back from getting wins that we should be getting.”

The Lions will next face Rivier College (Nashua, N.H.) on Dec. 1. Regarding the outlook on the rest of the season, Gould said that team will be working to improve its strength.

“We’re going to run a lot. We are going to run, and if you don’t play hard, you’re not playing. It’s as simple as that,” he said. “The good thing — and this is why I’m angry, not discouraged — is because we have talent. It’s not a question of talent, we’re just not tough enough yet.”