The Clarion University women’s basketball team ended its season on a high-flying note last Saturday afternoon, as the Golden Eagles gave a stunning performance to put away the Pitt-Johnston Lady Cats 63-51.
Saturday’s match was not just the end of Clarion’s season, however; it also marked the final game of senior guard Tania Holmes.
From tipoff to the final buzzer, Holmes and her Golden Eagle teammates ensured that their final game together would end on a winning note.
The Golden Eagles and Lady Cats would start the match exchanging baskets, with UPJ striking first off a three-pointer courtesy of forward Jamie Tabon.
Clarion would respond with a three-pointer of its own and looked poised to take off.
Ultimately, they would end the half leading 30-29.
It was in the second half that Clarion came to life, with a mid-range shot from guard Tyra Polite acting as the spark to fuel the Golden Eagles’ offense.
Minutes after the basket, Holmes would strip UPJ forward Laurel O’Barto of the ball and convert it into a fast break basket of her own, increasing the Clarion lead by five and the score to 38-33.
Another jumper from Polite off of Holmes gave the Golden Eagles the 48-41 advantage.
From there on out, the game was all Clarion’s for the taking.
With the final point of the game coming off a Holmes’ layup, Clarion would secure the win 63-51.
The Lady Cats never threatened the Golden Eagles for the rest of the game, having been held off to just a 28 percent field goal percentage and a dreadful 3-of-22 mark from the three-point line by Clarion.
Head Coach Jana Ashley attributes her team’s defensive strategy as the key to its victory.
Ashley said, “We knew that our defense, as the game went on, was going to rattle them more and more.”
Still, the offensive play, specifically from Holmes, was not to be dismissed.
Holmes’ last stint with the Golden Eagles was certainly one to remember, as the Massachusetts native recorded a team-high 20 points, nine rebounds, three steals and two blocks in the effort against UPJ.
Holmes becomes just the third Golden Eagle to record 100 or more career points for Clarion, finishing ninth in program history in scoring, and Head Coach Jana Ashley knows she’ll have a bit of a task filling Holmes’ void come next season.
“She was a huge part of the turnaround we’ve had in the last two years,” Ashley said. “I don’t know if we can replace her with just one person.”
Despite the loss of the Golden Eagles’ top point-scorer, Ashley does remain optimistic for the team’s future.
The knowledge that 10 out of her 11 starters will be returning to the court next season certainly helps ease her fears.
“To lose your leading scorer is tough, but to know that we’re returning everybody else kind of helps me sleep at night,” Ashley said.
The Golden Eagles finished its season with a record of 9-13 in PSAC play and 9-19 overall, a seven-win improvement over last year’s finish.