By Ronald Hanaki
ESU’s women’s basketball team used a strong fourth quarter rally to upset the Bloomsburg Huskies 71-66 at Koehler Fieldhouse last Saturday.
The Warriors were led by the super sophomore tandem of Imani Brown and Rebecca Rutkowski. Brown had 17 points and 11 rebounds for her first double-double of the season, and Rutkowski had 16 points in the big win.
Junior forward Allison Howard recorded her sixth double-double of the season with 13 points and 11 rebounds.
This competitive and exciting game was deadlocked 34-34 at halftime.
The Huskies lead for most of the second half, but the Warriors clawed their way back. Senior guard Melissa Poderis hit a rainbow-three at the 6:16 mark of the fourth quarter to make the score 57-55 ESU. It was ESU’s first lead in the second half.
After a flurry of possessions, the Warriors found themselves trailing by two points late in the fourth quarter. Brown scored on a layup but was also fouled by Bloomsburg junior guard Alex Ross for an and-one.
Brown sank her free throw to complete the old-fashioned three-point play and brought ESU to a 65-64 lead with 50 seconds left to play. Additional Bloomsburg fouls put the Warriors back at the free throw line. Both Howard and Poderis made their free throws, giving ESU an important win over a PSAC East divisional rival.
The win over Bloomsburg was special for first-year head coach Diane Decker because she spent several years as the assistant coach for Bloomsburg.
After the game, Decker and ESU assistant coach and former Huskie standout Marla Simmons were seen exchanging warm embraces with Bloomsburg head coach Bill Cleary.
Even President Marcia Welsh came down from the stands to hug Decker after the game.
At this point in the season, it is clear that the Warriors are flourishing under Decker’s system.
Back in early January, ESU beat the then No. 13-ranked California University on a three-point buzzer-beater.
“That was a huge confidence builder. It helped the girls start to believe,” said Decker.
Despite that big win over a nationally-ranked opponent, Decker pointed to an earlier game against Holy Family as the turning point of the season.
“Holy Family was the game that really changed everything. If we didn’t get the win, Cal might have been a different story,” said Decker. “We were struggling to put four quarters together, but then a light switch went on for them.”
“It took the team a while to learn how to play, but the more they became confident in that, the better they became as a team,” continued Decker.
ESU is currently ranked No. 5 in the PSAC East. The top six teams will advance to the postseason PSAC tournament.
The Warriors (10-10, 8-8) are on the road against Cheyney this Saturday afternoon.
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