The entire season could have flashed before their eyes.
When senior guard Shey Peddy crashed into the stands face first on a layup attempt with 12 minutes left in the Atlantic Ten Conference Tournament second round match against Duquesne on Saturday, it was the Owls’ worst fear.
Would their star player be okay? And could the team survive without her?
“When [Peddy] went down, the look in [senior guard BJ Williams’] eyes said it all,” coach Tonya Cardoza said. “I definitely knew that we were going to come out of here with a win.”
At the time the Owls were clinging to a rare two-point lead. During the next three minutes Williams and company managed to minimize the damage, as Duquesne merely tied the game 43-43.
Then Peddy returned, with tape on her nose, looking a little dazed. Everyone on the court was banged up in a physical game that had 36 combined fouls, but none more than the Massachusetts native.
“It was a very physical game,” Duquesne coach Suzie McConnell-Serio said.
It didn’t matter.
Less than 30 seconds after her return Peddy nailed a jumper, then a three, and another jumper that led to a three-point play. After five minutes it was Peddy, 8, Dukes, 1. And not one Owl knocked home a bucket.
“I realized I didn’t want this to be my last game,” Peddy said afterwards holding a towel to her nose.
“They had a player who took over the game, and there’s no doubt in my mind that that was the difference,” McConnell-Serio said.
When the final buzzer sounded Peddy knocked down 20 of the team’s 21 points—senior guard Kristen McCarthy made a free throw—off a combination of jumpers, threes and free throws. Peddy finished with 30 on the night, leading Temple to a brutal 64-55 win.
Temple escaped despite committing 12 turnovers in the first half and 15 overall (they forced 19 of their own) and despite McCarthy making just one of her 12 attempts for three points on the night.
“We played them in January, it was the same thing,” Cardoza said. “The first time we played them we had 27 turnovers, so this is an improvement.”
The battle between Duquesne and Temple may very well be just the beginning of this A-10 tournament for the Owls. Cardoza doesn’t believe the road to the championship will be any easier.
“I wouldn’t say easier,” Cardoza said. “You’re going to get everyone’s A-game, you’ve just got to make sure you’re doing the things you’re capable of doing.”
The Owls are surely going to get Dayton’s A-game, as the Flyers won another hard-fought battle against Saint Louis after Temple’s game, 69-51. The teams combined for 70 points in the paint, 35 fouls and went 24 of 35 from the stripe.
The last time Temple and Dayton faced each other was back in January, in the Flyer’s Arena. The Owls escaped with a 61-57 win behind Peddy’s 21 points and eight rebounds, but it wasn’t easy. Peddy had made both ends of her 1-and-1 in the final seconds to put the team up three and McCarthy made a foul shot a few seconds later to ice the game.
Last time the Owls held senior forward Justine Raterman to 10 points. This time she’s coming into the game riding a 25-point performance against Xavier, a 32-performance in an overtime win over the Dukes, and nine-point performance on Saturday.
Plus the game pits the preseason A-10 favorites. In the coaches’ poll before the season both teams tied for first place in votes. While St. Bonaventure stole the regular season title with a 14-0 mark, that doesn’t mean this game will mean any less.
Now that the team got the first game out of the way they have to refocus and not start out as slowly as they did in the first half when they shot a paltry 29.2 percent.
“We had jitters,” Peddy said. “Everybody was mostly excited just try to hurry up and score, and I think we were trying to win a game in one play.”
The Flyers won’t let them get away with that in the semi-finals. Raterman and company are too good at capitalizing on mistakes.
So the Owls get less than 24 hours to recover mentally and physically, get some rest, plan for one of the league’s best players in Raterman and try and get one more win.
“I’m just happy that we’re able to survive and advance,” Cardoza said. That’s what March Madness is all about, survive and advance.”
Jake Adams can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.
For a complete game recap check out “Owls recover from first-half shooting woes” by staff writer Brandon Stoneburg