Athena Christoforakis stood at the end of the bench with her warm-up jersey covering a mound of ice on her shoulder. Natalia Isaac sat at the middle of the bench, drinking a cup of water.
Their coach, Dawn Staley, sat next to Isaac, basking in the success that was a busy weekend for the Temple women’s basketball team.
The Owls (15-7, 8-3) defeated Atlantic 10 power George Washington 69-62 on Friday and St. Bonaventure 77-62 on Sunday. The wins assure that Temple will finish with a winning record for the first time since 1990. Isaac and Christoforakis were a big reason for the turnaround.
On Friday, Isaac scored 11 points in the last three minutes, including eight free throws and a big three-pointer. She shot 14-of-14 from the line and scored 22 points for the game.
Christoforakis scored 13 points in the game and added nine rebounds. In the first half she bruised her left arm and had to finish the game holding it against her body as if she were wearing a cast.
“I saw her when she got hurt and I said, ‘Athena at least get some Advil or something,” said senior forward Ieesha Turnage. “She’s like, ‘I’m alright, I’m alright, I’m alright.’ I finally forced her to get some Aleve and that alleviated some of the pain. She makes me proud.”
She got to make her parents proud last weekend, too. Kosta and Georgette Christoforakis came from Florida to watch their daughter for the first time this season. Two of her cousins drove down from Connecticut for Sunday’s game as well.
Usually her parents call the press row phone to get game scores when Temple is at home and their daughter is playing. This time they got to see their daughter live, and she didn’t disappoint. Christoforakis scored 20 points and grabbed 13 rebounds, all with a sore arm.
Isaac, though, gave the biggest performance on Sunday.
Coming off her 22-point game against the Colonials, Isaac carried the team on her shoulders against St. Bonaventure.
With Temple down 49-48, Isaac hit a three from the left corner to start an 18-6 Temple run.
She fed a pass to Christoforakis to assist on a jumpshot that gave the Owls a 55-49 lead with eight minutes remaining.
Temple, whose defense was sluggish for the first 30 minutes of the game, took control of the Bonnies in the middle of the second half.
Isaac hit two consecutive threes, a two from the top of the key, got a steal and followed it with a three. Isaac left the game with 1:33 left and the outcome well in hand, 72-57 Temple.
“I got a little mad because (a player) kinda did a little spin move on me,” Isaac said of what sparked her run. “She made me look bad so I had to come back down and make up for that.”
Isaac averaged only 5 points per game last season, but has been filling in nicely for the injured Christine Cruz this year.
“I think anyone would want to play like this all four years of their (career),” Isaac said, “but I’m a late bloomer and I’ll take it. I’m peaking at the right time now for the team. I’m just glad I can contribute off the bench.”
“I think Natalia just got on a run where everything she shot went in,” Staley said. “You got to ride the tide.”
Her hot shooting could have helped Staley on Saturday night as well.
Staley, of the Charlotte Sting of the WNBA, teamed with David Wesley of the Charlotte Hornets for the NBA 2Ball competition at the all-star game in Washington, D.C.
The two finished third after Wesley missed some lay-ups. Isaac and Christoforakis were watching and stuck up for their coach.
“The women were carrying all the players anyway in 2-ball,” Isaac said. “It’s alright though. I think coach will be satisfied with these two wins this weekend.”
Two big wins, a winning season in hand and the coach playing at the all-star game. Yeah, it was a busy weekend for the Temple women’s basketball team.