Adversity has the power to make teams better. But if a team has never stared it down, what’s difficult to tell is exactly how good a team is.
On Wednesday night at the LVC Gymnasium, the Lebanon Valley College women’s basketball team did not perform well in the face of adversity. The untested Flying Dutchmen wilted in crunch time and fell to rival Messiah 62-56.
Lebanon Valley, the seventh ranked Division Three squad in the country, was out performed and outscored 31-21 in the second half. Messiah, ranked tenth nationally, hit the Flying Dutchmen with a pair of 8-0 runs in the second 20 minutes of action.
The Flying Dutchmen, who had outscored their opponents by an average of 24 points in their first four outings, slipped to 4-1 overall and 1-1 in the Commonwealth Conference. The Falcons are now 4-0 on the year and 1-0 in the circuit.
The outcome snapped Lebanon Valley’s three-game win streak over Messiah.
“We haven’t faced adversity at all,” said Lebanon Valley head coach Todd Glocowski. “We haven’t faced it in a year. For some of these girls, it was new. We didn’t react in a way we wanted to.
“I think you’re doing great things if you’re up 30 or 40 points,” Goclowski continued. “You try to replicate things in practice, but it’s not a game. I think we got away from our team game. We were right there. But we didn’t play our best basketball. They (the Falcons) definitely wanted it more.”
Despite too much one-on-one play and having individuals trying to do too much, Lebanon Valley still had a shot to pull it out with 35 seconds remaining. After a Caitlin Bach free throw had pulled the Flying Dutchmen to within 59-56, Tierney Hiltz came up with an offensive rebound.
But 15 seconds later Lebanon Valley turned the ball over, and the Falcons iced it with three charity tosses.
“All the credit to Messiah,” said Goclowski. “They showed a lot of heart and desire. When you have a great opponent, you’ve got to play your best.
“It was a physical game,” added Goclowski. “They (the officials) allowed it to be physical. And it wasn’t to our advantage.”
When LVC point guard Kiely Chaklos converted a lay-in six minutes into the second half, the Flying Dutchmen had the same four-point advantage it enjoyed in the locker room. But Messiah netted 13 of the game’s next 16 points to assume a 52-46 margin.
Over the next few minutes of play the Falcons would enjoy three different six-point leads, 55-49, 57-51 and 59-53.
“In the second half, they (the Falcons) came out of the locker room with a greater intensity,” Goclowski said. “And we came out with a lesser intensity. And I’m not sure why.
“We’re a work in progress,” continued Goclowski. “We’re still trying to figure out where all the pieces are going to be and how they’re going to fit together.”
Caitlin Bach registered 15 LVC points, while teammates Chaklos and Hiltz accounted for 13 and ten, respectively. Lebanon Valley owned the glass by a 45-28 margin, but was guilty of 18 turnovers.
The Flying Dutchmen also limited the Falcons to 39 percent shooting from the field. But Messiah made as many free throws – nine – as LVC attempted.
“When was the last time we went to the line nine times?” asked Goclowski rhetorically. “That’s a big part of our game. I think the (officiating) crew was consistent.
“I told the girls to stay together, to keep fighting and ‘let’s get better’,” said Goclowski. “It’s a long journey. One bump in a road is not going to derail a great team.”
Lebanon Valley lit it up in the first half, and recorded five unanswered points – on a three-point play from Hiltz and an inside move by Bach – to grab an early 14-9 advantage. Then midway through the stanza, the Flying Dutchmen assumed their first of a number of eight-point leads – 23-15 – via a bucket from Renee Fritz.
At the break, the Flying Dutchmen were ahead 35-31.
“It was disheartening the way we shot in the first half and to be only up four,” said Goclowski. “We didn’t capitalize. I felt like we could’ve walked into the locker room up ten, and we were up four. We shot 58 percent in the first half and were only up four, I was concerned.
“We’ll see how we react to the loss,” added Goclowski. “Widener (Saturday, at home) presents a whole different challenge than Messiah. In conference play, the great opponents keep coming. We can’t spend our time lamenting this loss.”