The third-ranked Gannon University women’s basketball team hosted its annual Pink Zone game Saturday, continuing its tradition of effort dedicated to helping others.
The affair has yielded much success on and off the court throughout its now seven installments as past and present Knights have raised more than $85,000 for cancer research (not including this year’s proceeds) and compiled a record of 5-2 in Pink Zone games.
Fans who attended the game helped the cause by visiting tables that were set up at the entrance of the pink-laden Hammermill Center by sponsors of the day’s events.
Coach Jim Brunelli, in his first appearance in a Pink Zone game at Gannon, negotiated a 64-53 victory over Seton Hill.
The Knights have made a habit of winning games this season as they improved their overall record to 20-1 and remained in second place in the Pennsylvania State Athletic Conference Western division with a 6-1 mark.
So after his team shot 34.6 percent and trailed the Griffins by the score of 27-26 at the halfway point, Brunelli and the Knights simply sought to refocus their efforts once more at halftime.
Senior forward Jen Papich chipped in six points in 27 minutes of action after being in foul trouble in the first half, but stated that the team had mentally prepared for possible distractions that come with the atmosphere.
“I’m not sure that we were distracted in the first half, but Nettie (and I) got into foul trouble and things like that can throw off your game,” Papich said.
The Knights’ victory was due in large part to the timely effort from a bench that outscored the Griffins’ reserves 29-5.
Sophomore guard Morgan Neighbors paced the team in scoring with 17 points and made the most of her 22 minutes off the bench.
Neighbors’ emergence as a consistent scorer out of the backcourt, along with the solid play from a bench that helps the team win games, is not lost on Papich.
“Morgan has been noticeable lately but everyone contributes, like (Brianna), a freshman who stepped in and made some big shots, and Jennie Theis has been playing good basketball,” Papich said.
“It really is a full team effort and when you have a bench like that, it’s going to benefit the team.”
Sophomores Neighbors and Theis made timely contributions in the first half to keep the Knights in the contest despite a cold start, offensively.
Freshman guard Brianna Brennan dropped in a layup with about 15 minutes to go in the contest, before alertly stealing the inbounds pass and nailing a 3-pointer that knotted the game at 35.
And as is often the case on close-knit teams, even individual accomplishments are lauded as team efforts. Saturday, Nettie Blake was a beneficiary of such success.
The junior forward surpassed 1,000 points in her career as a Knight, joining Papich and only 23 others who reached the milestone before them in garnering the distinction.
Blake scored 10 points and pulled in eight rebounds in the game, playing only 17 minutes.
Blake raved in the postgame press conference about what it means to accomplish the feat on a team where each member contributes so much on an individual basis.
“To do it on a college team where people share the ball and it’s not just one player, everybody scores – it’s a great feeling,” Blake said.
“And to have my teammates be just as proud of me as I am of myself is a great feeling.”