The Richmond Spiders beat the La Salle Explorers, 56-51, as the Spiders celebrated 100 years of women's basketball Sunday afternoon in the Robins Center.
The celebration took place throughout the game, with fun facts about the program's history and a video highlighting Spider greats through the years. At halftime, 21 alumni of the program, representing graduating classes ranging from 1960 through 2018, stepped onto the court to receive recognition and an ovation.
Once the game began, hot shooting propelled the Spiders early, as a 9-0 run gave Richmond a seven-point lead heading into the first media timeout. The Explorers cut the lead to four with a three-pointer, but the Spiders quickly answered behind post moves from forward Jaide Hinds-Clarke and outside shooting from forward Amy Duggan and guard Alex Parson.
Richmond’s shooting went cold, however, after the first-quarter break, as La Salle scored the first six points of the second quarter. Explorer forwards Sofilia Ngwafang and Kayla Spruill penetrated the zone to cut the lead to five at the 6:37 mark in the second quarter.
Hinds-Clarke responded with a jumper that lipped out and back in, stabilizing the Spider offense. A string of layups and a three-pointer by Alex Parson gave the Spiders their greatest margin thus far, 32-17 with less than three minutes remaining in the half.
In the second half, Richmond’s offense continued smoothly, as Jaide Hinds-Clarke continued to produce -- once off a pass from Claire Holt and again off an offensive rebound, stretching the lead back to 15.
Holt, who scored 12 points, said: “My coaches put a lot of emphasis on working on my passing and I struggled so much earlier in the year -- not even that long ago in the season. I’ve been coming in like thirty minutes early to every practice to work with our assistant coaches to work on different types of passing and they’ve been putting a lot of time in [for] me.”
Richmond Head Coach Michael Shafer said: “I think we didn’t respond as well as we should. A little bit of our youth showed up; we made some bad decisions. We played very stagnant so we fouled, and they were able to get to the free throw line and that hurt us.”
A pair of three-pointers by La Salle’s Shayla Sweeney cut the lead to seven with fewer than four minutes remaining in the quarter, putting pressure on the Spiders to counter.
A layup by Ruffin and a strong drive to the basket by first-year Emma Squires increased the Richmond lead to 11. After showing signs of wavering, the Spiders led 45-35 heading into the fourth quarter.
The Explorers came out of the gates fighting, as they scored five straight points, making it a two-possession game with 8:07 remaining in the game.
Claire Holt was not ready to give in, hitting a three-pointer, eliciting a roar from the crowd and giving the Spiders a 48-40 lead.
"When we needed to, when it was really tight, we made the plays we needed to make, which I’m pleased with and we kind of gutted it out there," Shafer said. "Just hopeful that we can learn from this and get better in those situations."
La Salle began to counter each Richmond attack inside the paint, setting up a tense finish. A block from Shalina Miller gave the Explorers the ball with less than five minutes remaining, but they missed four consecutive layups.
After a series of missed shots for both teams, the score resting at 49-44, Alex Parson broke the game open with a three pointer with 1:30 remaining, igniting the 667 fans in attendance.
But the Explorers continued to answer. Shalina Miller made a layup and, with 32 seconds remaining, Michelle Nicholls hit a game-changing three-pointer to put the Spiders up 52-49.
On the next possession, Holt was fouled off the inbounds pass and calmly sank both free throws to give the Spiders a five-point advantage.
“Claire has a knack and has had it since high school of hitting big shots and being able to play under pressure," Shafer said. "I thought those free throws were just a carryover from what she’s done her entire career. I’m really pleased that she came up big when we needed her.”
The Explorers’ Jeryn Reese then hit a teardrop floater to counter, but Holt once again came in clutch and sank both free throws on the subsequent possession, giving the Spiders an insurmountable lead. Richmond walked away with the victory, winning 56-51.
Holt said: “I just knew because I had been practicing free throws a lot -- all week -- and I take pride in my free throws. Once I missed that one earlier, I was like ‘This is not happening to me again!’”
Hinds-Clarke, had her tenth double-double of the season (14 points, 15 rebounds).
Shafer said: “I think [when you have balanced scoring] that’s when you’re really good. I’d like to score more than we’re scoring, but I think as kids start to find their spots… and be ready to score when it’s their time, I think they’re going to shoot the ball better.”
On Wednesday, the Spiders (8-19, 5-9 A10) will look to improve their Atlantic 10 standing as they travel to the University of Massachusetts to face the Minutewomen, who are also 5-9 in conference.
Contact sports writer Cassie Coughlan at firstname.lastname@example.org.