Forward Taylor Young’s 23 points and 4 assists ignited the No. 9-ranked St. Thomas women’s basketball team to a 69-52 victory against Bethel University Monday at Schoenecker Arena.
Coming off a close loss to St. Mary’s Saturday and in position to take over first place in the conference with a win over the Royals (9-2, 7-1 MIAC), coach Ruth Sinn said she was proud with the way her team competed throughout the game.
“I thought we responded well. We’re very athletic, and I thought we showed that this game,” Sinn said. “What we talk about is every possession you have to play like it’s the last possession, and I thought our girls did well with that.”
The Tommies (10-2, 8-1 MIAC) attacked the Royals’ 2-3 zone early and often, starting the game on a 12-2 run. Young said her team focused on working the ball inside-out against the Bethel zone.
“We call it the one-more pass. So if you get it inside and the defense collapses, you pass it out and then maybe one-more,” Young said. “It just really exposes the zone and forces them to extend it or get out of it, so that was our plan.”
This plan was on full display with 5:45 left in the first half when forward Alyssa Favilla caught the ball at the free-throw line and after the Bethel defense collapsed. Favilla found guard Laura Margarit for an open corner 3-pointer to give the Tommies a 27-15 lead.
Margarit stretched the defense all game, connecting on 3-of-4 3-pointers for 9 points, while also grabbing 5 rebounds. Margarit said her team was motivated coming into tonight’s game after a tough loss Saturday.
“It almost helped us that it was a good team because it was easy to get psyched up for, and we knew it was going to be a good game,” Margarit said. “We knew we had to come out firing and play our best, and I thought we did that.”
Bethel switched up its defensive strategy in the second half, picking up St. Thomas’ man-to-man, but as they did in the first half, the Tommies continued to make the smart pass and find the open player.
With 8:01 left in the second half, forward Hannah Hughes drove baseline and finished strong at the rim for an and-one, giving the Tommies a 60-41 lead.
Sinn said she was proud of how her team played “real good team basketball.”
“If we can limit them to one-and-done, then you’re gonna keep teams in the 50s, in the 40s,” Sinn said. “We always talk about the big three: rebounds, free throws and turnovers.”
St. Thomas dominated on the glass, out-rebounding the Royals 42-31, led by center Maggie Weiers’ double-double: 13 points and 13 rebounds.
With shots falling and minimal turnovers throughout, the Tommie post players controlled the inside and didn’t allow Bethel center Rachel Parupsky, averaging nearly a double-double, to be a big factor on the game.
“They did really well. Parupsky’s a really good player,” Young said. “She was really big down there, but our post players did a good job of containing her.”
Guard Katie Stone moved the zone well with her crisp passing all night, adding 7 points, 7 assists and 5 rebounds.
St. Thomas is back in action Wednesday evening when the team travels to St. Peter for a MIAC matchup with Gustavus at 7:30 p.m.
Kyle Jonas can be reached at email@example.com.