It was a day of streaks.
Temple and La Salle traded baskets for over seven minutes early into the second half. With the score tied at 42, the Owls went on a 10-0 run. LaSalle then followed with seven consecutive points to cut the lead to three.
It was an ugly basketball game between two of the best defensive teams in the Atlantic Ten Conference, but all that mattered were the streaks that were kept in tact after visiting Temple defeated La Salle, 60-55, at the Tom Gola Arena Saturday.
Six straight wins. 18 consecutive Big 5 victories. Four straight Big 5 crowns.
“Bragging rights; it’s a championship,” Temple coach Dawn Staley said about winning her fourth straight Big 5 crown – a first in the history of the city series – and winning five titles out of the last seven years. “It’s something you play for, compete for and with Philadelphia being a rich basketball town you want to be considered the best. Not among the best, but be considered the best.”
Free throws from sophomore guard LaKeisha Eaddy, senior center Lady Comfort and senior guard Ashley Morris sealed the deal for the Owls (13-10, 6-1 A-10, 4-0 Big 5).
“We never play well here,” Staley said. “It’s always taken some kind of performance by some person other than whom we think is going to play well. ”
Two players fit those roles for Staley Saturday afternoon: freshman guard Shaqwedia Wallace and junior forward Shenita Landry.
Wallace played 27 minutes, mostly late in the game and scored 11 points with two steals.
“I just felt Shaqwedia was ready to play,” Staley said. “She had a great couple of days of practice. Sometimes, you got to make a change; it’s not hard for us recognize when that change needs to be made.”
It was Landry who made her presence felt on the boards. The junior pulled down 12 rebounds, five on the offensive side, to go along with 12 points.
“It was Shenita’s night,” Staley said. “We knew coming into the game that’s where we could make our mark. If we miss shots, we have great opportunity to get the ball back and get an extra possession.”
It wasn’t just Landry who made a mark on the boards.
Senior center Lady Comfort had nine rebounds as the Owls out-rebounded the Explorers (9-13, 1-6 A-10, 1-2 Big 5) two to one, 36-18 and 13-3 on the offensive glass.
“We win ball games when she plays more than 30 minutes,” Staley said about Comfort who added 12 points in 33 minutes.
The game looked to be in doubt after 20 minutes of play. LaSalle shot 56.5 percent from the field in the field, trailing by only three points at halftime. But as the A-10’s top defensive team got more physical and intense, the Explorers struggled to find their shot, shooting just 38 percent in the second half.
“The press,” Staley said. “Our ability to press and disrupt them a little bit, and not have them set up their half-court offense and get it into people’s hands who can really do damage on the offensive end.”
Senior Carlene Hightower led the Explorers with 18 points.
“A very dangerous player,” Staley said. “We did a pretty good job on her last night; didn’t do a good job on her this year. We put her in positions where she’s in the scoring area where we couldn’t help or challenge shots. She’s a good player who’s explosive.”
Senior Melanie Gibbons was the only other La Salle player to register double digits in points. The Owls, on the other hand, had four players: Comfort, Eaddy, Wallace and Morris, who is undefeated in her career at Temple in the Big 5.
“Real excited to do something for the program, [to] leave a mark on the program,” said Morris who finished with nine points and five assists. “One of the things I wanted to do before I graduate was to leave knowing we left the Big 5 perfect. We won outright today, it means a lot to me.”
Pete Dorchak can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.