The women’s basketball team beat Duquesne and Dayton before losing to Xavier by two points.
The women’s basketball team needed just one more basket.
One more basket would have sent Temple into double overtime with No. 5 Xavier or given the Owls the Atlantic Ten Tournament title.
With five seconds remaining in overtime, the Owls came out of a timeout with possession of the ball. They trailed the A-10 Tournament’s No. 1-seeded team, 57-55. Junior guard Shaqwedia Wallace charged into the lane hoping to score a layup at the buzzer or draw a foul. Her shot did not go in, and the referees did not call a foul. Xavier won the A-10 Championship.
“They gave everything that they had and left everything out there on the floor,” coach Tonya Cardoza said. “That’s the No. 5 team in the country, and we showed a lot of heart and character in how we fought against them.”
The Owls got off to a rough start against the Musketeers, who opened the game on a 14-0 run. That run allowed Xavier to get on a roll. The Musketeers led, 32-20, at halftime.
“I thought we definitely approached the game a little tentatively, but once we calmed down, we realized that we can play with them,” Cardoza said. “I think it took just making that first shot to relax everybody. [Senior guard] Keisha [Eaddy] stepped up and made two big shots for us, and that’s where we got our confidence from.”
Temple mounted a fierce comeback after halftime with a 13-1 run that closed the gap. The Owls also adjusted defensively by double-teaming Xavier’s leading scorer, redshirt junior forward Amber Harris. Wallace and sophomore forward Kristen McCarthy came alive offensively and led the Owls with 18 and 17 points, respectively. On the defensive end, junior forward Marli Bennett and Eaddy combined for six steals, while senior center Jasmine Stone pulled down 17 rebounds.
“They did everything I asked them to do at halftime,” Cardoza said. “They played with passion, played with fire and took their time being patient, and not trying to do everything at once.”
Despite the Owls’ efforts, Xavier held on for the win. The Musketeers rode a 23-point performance from Harris, who finished the season as the A-10 Player of the Year and earned the A-10 Tournament’s Most Outstanding Player.
“[Harris is] long. She can shoot the ball well. She can put it on the floor, but our biggest thing was trying to defend [Xavier junior center] Ta’Shia Phillips,” Cardoza said. “She’s the biggest thing out there, and when you go to and try to double-team Amber, especially with another post player, you leave her free to go get an offensive rebound.”
Phillips provided a presence in the paint with nine points and 21 rebounds.
“They’re a big team, and Ta’Shia is big, too,” McCarthy said. “Boxing out was not easy, and it was very hard to move her, and it was very physical down there, but I think we did our best to hold our own.”
To make it to the championship round, the Owls dispatched Duquesne, 63-54, in the quarterfinal round after receiving a first-round bye. In the semifinal round, Temple pushed past Dayton, 67-64 in overtime, thanks to two free throws from Eaddy with nine seconds left in the extra period.
McCarthy and Eaddy both earned end-of-the-season accolades from the A-10. McCarthy was named to the First Team All A-10 Team, while Eaddy was named on the Third Team All A-10 Team and the A-10 Defensive Team. Both players were also named to the All-Tournament Team.
“If we could hang with the No. 5 team in the nation, we can hang with anybody,” McCarthy said. “We were picked [to finish] fifth in the A-10, and we went out and proved a lot of people wrong.”
Brian Dzenis can be reached at email@example.com.