Though they’ve played in an Atlantic Ten Conference Championship game three out of their four years at Temple, seniors Ashley Morris and Lady Comfort faced a completely different title experience this season.
In 2008, Morris and Comfort were at the head of the realm. And although the teammates produced more than they did in 2006, the last time Temple was one of the A-10’s finalists, they didn’t do enough for the same results as that year — a win.
This time around, Xavier outplayed the Owls, winning the 2008 A-10 Championship, 47-42, at Saint Joseph’s Alumni Memorial Fieldhouse Monday night.
The 2006 match-up with George Washington was led by current WNBA stars Candice Dupree and Kamesha Hairston. But the 2008 Owls looked at Morris and Comfort, who combined for only three points — all from Comfort — in 2006, as the leaders of the current squad.
For that reason, Morris was extremely hard on herself after the loss in which she shot 4-for-20 from the field.
“It was a different feeling all season, going from following to leading. It’s a tremendous change,” she said. “I failed as a leader tonight.
“Me struggling offensively makes everyone else struggle, so I take full responsibility for that part of the game,” the guard from Philadelphia added. “I’m the head of this monster, and when I struggle, nothing goes good for this team.”
But Comfort doesn’t want all blame placed on Morris.
“I wouldn’t put it all on her, it’s a team effort,” the 6-foot-4 center said. “We all just needed to step up a little bit more, and it really didn’t happen.”
Comfort managed to grab 11 rebounds, seven of them offensive, and she blocked four shots, but she shot only 2-for-8 and scored just five points.
“I was just trying to force it so much,” Comfort, who turned the ball over four times, said after the game. “I just wanted to make the easy shot, and I made it kind of hard for myself. I just wanted to get [A-10 Championship Most Outstanding Player Ta’Shia Phillips and Amber Harris] out of the game, get them in foul trouble. But I also wanted to get on the scoreboard.”
No matter how poorly Morris played, coach Dawn Staley knows the Owls rely on Morris significantly, and she wouldn’t change that.
“She had a lot of energy, and she didn’t know where to put it,” Staley said. “There were more times than not she was going a little bit too fast on offense. I tried to calm her down a little bit, but sometimes when you get it going and you want something so bad, you go a little bit quicker than what your decision making capabilities are.
“But she got us here. We wouldn’t be here without Ashley. I know she feels bad about the game, but she put us in the position to continue to play.”
NEXT THE MEN WILL TRY
With its first A-10 Tournament game this week, members of the men’s basketball team were in the stands at Saint Joseph’s Alumni Memorial Fieldhouse to watch Staley’s club.
“We just came out to support the girls, because they always come out to support us,” junior Dionte Christmas, the leading scorer in the A-10, said at halftime. “It’s always good when one of your teams makes it to a championship. Hopefully we can be in the same situation they’re in.”
Senior Mark Tyndale talked about how important a women’s victory would be.
“It would give us a little boost going into conference play,” the 6-foot-5 forward said. “And it would help us out dramatically going into the first game.”
Junior guard Semaj Inge agrees.
“Watching them motivates me a little bit more to try to go out there and go hard when we get our chance to go after the Atlantic 10 Championship,” he said.
The men’s first game will be at the Boardwalk Hall in Atlantic City Thursday. The Owls, who finished second in the A-10 standings, will meet the winner of the La Salle-Duquesne game.
“We’re just looking ahead to see who we’re going to play this week, and once we find out, we got to focus and go ahead with our game plan,” Christmas, who was named to the All-Conference first-team, said. “We just want to take one game at a time. Hopefully we can make it to the championship, but we’re taking it one game at a time.”
Tyndale, who made the All-Conference second-team, is looking straight to the finish.
“Our minds are strictly on what we have to face right now,” Tyndale said. “It will be a challenge whoever we play.
“We have one goal, and that’s to win the A-10.”
AMBER, AMBER, AMBER
During the game vs. the Owls, every time sophomore Amber Harris touched the ball, the students sitting in Temple’s “student section” chanted “Amber.”
Two and a half minutes into the second half, Harris turned to the students and waved her arms as if to say “louder.”
“I was telling them to keep doing that,” Harris said while laughing about it after the game. “I like it when crowds do that, because it actually helps me play better.”
The A-10 Championship Trophy spent the game sitting on the bleachers behind press row. Coincidentally, it was the same spot in which Staley and the rest of the Owls’ coaches sat during the tournament when Temple wasn’t in action.
Jeff Appelblatt can be reached at email@example.com.
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