It took longer than maybe she would have liked, but coach Tonya Cardoza finally notched the 100th win of her coaching career.
The Owls (7-8) pulled away late against Atlantic 10 Conference foe St. Bonaventure 67-59 in the conference season opener, making Cardoza just the third coach in program history to reach triple digit wins.
“It’s awesome,” Cardoza said of being linked with former coach Dawn Staley. “Dawn’s a really good friend of mine. She was a great coach here, so to be mentioned in the same breath as her is a bonus for me.”
I’ve been fortunate to cover this team for the past three seasons, which includes many of Cardoza’s 54 wins over that time. She is a class act and probably one of the better teachers of the game out there today.
She loves to compete more than anyone, but cares tremendously for her team. There have been press conferences where she’s been more excited for a player’s accomplishments or record-breaking performance than that player was. She wants nothing but the best out of everyone she coaches and she’s a large reason why the team hardly missed a beat when Staley departed six years ago.
So it’s only fitting that the Owls made the game as suspenseful as possible for their coach.
As is their credo this season the Owls certainly didn’t make it easy for themselves. The Bonnies (7-9) came into the season in similar straights as Temple, having lost four seniors on a squad that reached the Sweet Sixteen in the NCAA tournament last season.
The Bonnies started out white hot, nailing open shot after open shot en route to a 59.1-percent shooting performance in the first half. Temple headed to the lockers trailing 33-31 while shooting almost as well, going 13-for-29 from the floor in the first half.
Senior center Victoria Macaulay dueled early and often with St. Bonaventure junior forward Doris Ortega on the stat sheet. Macaulay hit the break with 11 points on 5-for-6 shooting and three rebounds while Ortega matched her with 11 points on 4-for-7 shooting and four assists.
“I knew that the double-team was coming so I was trying to find my other players, get them touches,” Macaulay said of her strategy on the day. “Other players on the team can shoot as well.”
“Obviously they’re undersized but they do a good job of clogging the paint and making it tough for you to do anything inside,” Cardoza said.
The second half started out much the same as the Owls hung close but only took the lead once, for all of 13 seconds, in the first 18 minutes of the half. But then something clicked for the Owls and not for the Bonnies as Temple went on a 13-2 run in the final three minutes to walk away with the win.
Sophomore guard Tyonna Williams drained the go-ahead trey with a minute, 26 seconds left, and the Owls never looked back.
“[We] thought it was going to be [sophomore guard Rateska Brown] on the other side,” Cardoza said of the play call.” But they sagged off of [Williams] and once she was open she was definitely going to put it up.”
Macaulay knocked down six of the final 13 points and finished with 23 points and 12 rebounds, her seventh double-double of the season. Doris didn’t quite keep up, ending with 16 points, eight assists and five boards.
It wasn’t so much that the Owls took the lead as much as it was that St. Bonaventure just lost all ability to make a bucket in the final minutes.
“To be honest, it just got to the point where they were missing shots, because they still were wide open shots,” Cardoza said.
In the end it doesn’t matter. Temple stands at 1-0 in the A-10 after a dreadful close to their non-conference season, which ranked as the eighth-toughest RPI in the nation, according to RPIratings.com.
And for Cardoza this marks yet another milestone in her still relatively young coaching career.
“It’s exciting, obviously,” Cardoza said. “I’m just happy that we were able to get our first conference win and another road win, that’s the most important thing. I’ve had some really good players that played here for me and obviously it’s because of them and my coaching staff that I’ve been able to reach this milestone.”
Jake Adams can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or on Twitter @jakeadams520.