Published on February 4th, 2013 | by Jesse Hardacre0
New Team, New Attitude
Jesse Hardacre, Contributor
Above photo by Steve Woltmann: Senior Labrenthia Murdock has led the Flyers to first place in the GLVC East Division with a record of 14-3.
The Lewis University women’s basketball team is on quite a roll lately, which may come as a surprise to many people, but not coach Lisa Carlsen.
Compared to last season that saw the Flyers finish 8-20 on the season, the second straight season under .500, they have been on a phenomenal run this season with a record of 14-3. After a 3-1 start, Carlsen’s squad has rallied off 11 wins in their last 13 games since their first loss to Central Missouri on Nov. 24.
There were a lot of question marks going into the season, especially with only three seniors and a load of underclassmen on the team, including six freshmen and five returning sophomores. Of those five sophomores, Jamie Johnson was slated to be the starting point guard. After an ACL tear, Carlsen was forced to put fellow sophomore Nikki Nellen in that role, and she has thrived. Nellen is averaging nearly five assists a game, good for top 15 in the country, along with 8.5 points per game as well.
“Our team has made great strides throughout the season, and Nikki has been a huge reason why we have been successful,” Carlsen said.
Over the last week, the Flyers added to one of the best starts in school history, with a three-game run that started with a win on the road at UW-Parkside 63-58.
Parkside has had the Flyers’ number the past couple of years, but due to the graduation of many seniors, the Flyers matched up very well and got a hard fought win in a very tough place to play. The Flyers rallied around the play of Sam Rinehart, 13 points and nine rebounds, and Jess Reinhart, 20 points and seven rebounds, to leap them over the Parkside team, who was led by Jenna Endisch with 12 points.
Despite only shooting 41 percent from the field, the Flyers used good defense and rebounded well to keep themselves in the game. It came down to a last-second shot attempt by the Rangers with the Flyers up by three, but Endisch wasn’t able to get a clean look, and Lewis sealed the game with two free throws.
“It wasn’t pretty at times, but we did what needed to do down the stretch,” Carlsen said.
On Jan. 24, Lewis welcomed a very good Kentucky Wesleyan team into the Neil Carey Arena and took care of business in a good way, beating up on the Panthers 79-61. This helped to put them in a three-way tie for first place in the GLVC with Kentucky Wesleyan and No. 15 ranked Indianapolis.
The Flyers opened the game on an 8-2 run with a jumper by sophomore Kristin Itschnerand and two three-pointers from senior Labrenthia Murdock. Itschner would post 11 of her 13 points in the first half on 5-of-7 shooting from the field, including one three-pointer. Murdock added 13 points in the contest with six rebounds and three assists.
Lewis used their up-tempo pace to build a 10-point lead, up 20-10 by the 10-minute media time out. The Flyers got a basket and two free throws from Jess Reinhart, as well a three-pointer each from Itschner and Nikki Nellen during the run.
The Flyers carried their momentum into the second half, pushing their lead to 20 points, to go up 42-22 off of two layups by senior Sam Rinehart, who finished with 11 points and eight rebounds, along with a layup from Reinhart.
“We played really well against a good Kentucky Wesleyan team,” Carlsen said. “The thing that sticks out the most was our ability to rebound the ball, especially in the second half to finish with 17 offensive rebounds.”
Jess Reinhart scored 13 of her team-leading 19 points in the second half, and pulled down nine rebounds in the contest.
Lastly, the Flyers would keep the momentum going with a huge win over a Southern Indiana team who came in one game behind Lewis in the GLVC standings. Led by Rinehart’s career-high 22 points and 11 rebounds in this matchup, the Flyers battled to the end and were able to hold off the Eagles in a game in which pretty much the first team to 70 points was going to win.
The first half was a defensive battle that saw the fifth tie of the half at 23, 7:04 left in the period. USI went on a 9-7 run to close out the first 20 minutes, holding Lewis to only seven made free throws during the time. The squads battled for momentum in the second half, as neither team was able to build more than a three-point lead before relinquishing their lead.
“We just beat a really good team in Southern Indiana,” Carlsen said. “We knew today’s game was going to be a battle.”
It was a complete team effort, but the senior leadership was pretty evident as Murdock chipped in with 12 points, four assists and two blocks. USI chipped at Lewis’ lead, getting it down to one point, 70-69, with seven seconds left in the game on a layup by Anna Hackert. Hackert finished with 19 points and 11 rebounds respectively. Rinehart hit one of two free throws, and the tough Flyer defense sealed the 71-69 victory.
Over the last week, Rinehart garnered GLVC player of the week honors for her sensational play over those three games. She is averaging 11.8 points per game and 6.5 rebounds so far this season.
Lewis (14-3, 7-2 GLVC as of Jan. 31) is in first place in the conference and will return to Neil Carey Arena Feb. 14 when they host Bellarmine. The game will be available to listen to on WLRA Lewis University Radio, WJOL 1340 and it will be on Lake Shore Television network.