The University of Richmond women's basketball team played an emotional and historical game as the team defeated St. Louis University, 68-57, at the Robins Center Saturday afternoon on Senior Day. Seniors center Crystal Goring, former player and current assistant Rebecca Kretchman, guard Kara Powell and guard Brittani Shells were honored at a pre-game ceremony.
Shells became the second all-time leading scorer with 2,006 points as she scored 17 points. Shells also broke the school's all-time steals record when she recorded two steals during the game. The record stands at 300 steals.
Goring opened up the first half with the first two points of the game. Goring and Shells ran the opening minutes with back-and-forth play: Shells hit a layup on one possession and then Goring assisted Shells on the following possession.
St. Louis started the game strong, leading 8-6 with 15:36 remaining in the first half, but the Spiders' defense began to tighten its grip, led by Powell. Powell's relentless defense forced the Billikens to shoot many hurried shots to avoid a shot-clock violation.
After an official time out with 11:31 remaining in the first half, Shells sparked a 10-0 run with an assist to freshman Genevieve Okoro. Okoro, who was the Atlantic 10 Conference rookie of the week last week, finished with 16 points and 10 rebounds.
The Spiders held the Billikens scoreless for about eight minutes until sophomore forward Mallory Eggert made a foul shot around the 6:50 mark. The Billikens would not score another field goal until sophomore guard Jacy Bradley made a jump shot with 5:30 remaining in the first half.
Junior guard Abby Oliver and Okoro made several foul shots that helped build Richmond's lead to 24-13. Oliver also ignited a 6-1 run when Shells rebounded the ball and passed it to Oliver as the team transitioned down the court to shoot a quick three-pointer. Another rebound by Shells set up Oliver to make another three-pointer, with Richmond leading 30-15 with 3:49 remaining in the first half.
Richmond extended its lead with another Shells layup with an assist from Powell with 30 seconds remaining in the first half. Shells' last layup left her one point shy of reaching 2,000 point. But Shells finished the first half on a commanding note, blocking St. Louis' last-second shot. Richmond led 36-17 at the end of the first half.
The Spider seniors started the second half just as emotionally charged as they started the game. Goring drew an offensive charging foul during the first 15 seconds of the second half, and Shells assisted Oliver for a quick jump-shot, extending the lead to 38-17.
Goring continued to help Shells reach the milestone around the 18 minute mark with an assist as Shells hit her 2,000th point on a reverse finger-roll layup, Shells' signature move. Richmond's lead grew to 40-19.
St. Louis would not back away as the team continued to chip away at the deficit, scoring on back-to-back possessions. But Okoro made two more foul shots, Powell made a layup and Shells assisted to Goring for another two points. Okoro went 12 for 13 on foul shots for the game.
After a time out with 15:45 remaining in the game, St. Louis went on a 10-0 scoring run, despite Shells' steals and the Spiders' tough defense. Oliver stopped the scoring run with 12:12 remaining when she made a two-point jump-shot.
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After another time out, Shells recorded her second steal of the game, the steal which put her as the all-time leader with 300 steals, and Goring scored, pushing Richmond's lead to 50-33.
Yet the Billikens paced the Spiders, cutting the lead to seven points with 3:06 left in the game. It was the last time the Billikens would get close to the Spiders. Goring made another drive to the basket with one minute remaining, finishing with eight points, three blocks, two assists and one steal. Shells made her last two foul shots with 34.3 seconds left in the game as the rest of the Spider seniors headed to the bench.
Shells said that before the game began, her head was full of so many different emotions. She credited her success to God, her coaches and her teammates.
"This is such a huge accomplishment and honor, I cannot believe I made history," she said. "I hope that K.A. [senior men's basketball guard Kevin Anderson, who enters his game at 7 p.m. Saturday 11 points shy of 2,000; it would be the first time a men's and women's player from the same school reached 2,000 points on the same day in NCAA history] makes his mark in history later today too, so that together we will make history."
She said that to reach this feat during her last home game, as well as become the all-time leader in steals, left her with two more goals as the team awaits the seedings for the A-10 Conference Tournament, which begins March 4.
"I've accomplished so much since I have been here," she said. "The only two things that are missing are an Atlantic-10 championship title and a trip to the NCAAs. I know we can do it, so we just need to reach these goals."
Richmond coach Michael Shafer said he was full of mixed emotions at the start of the game today.
"[The seniors] all have had such a tremendous impact on our team and at this school," he said. "They have played so well during their time here that I teared up a bit during the ceremony. But once game-time came, I was fired up and so were they."
Shafer noted the success that the underclassmen had on the game today, which he said bodes well for tournament play as well as looking into future seasons.
The Spiders await its seed placement for the A-10 conference tournament. The first round begins March 4 in Lowell, Mass.
Contact staff writer Amelia Vogler at firstname.lastname@example.org
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