The Ripon College women’s basketball team needed a boost midway through the second quarter last week Saturday.
Its bench delivered.
Trailing the Monmouth Fighting Scots 21-13 and struggling offensively, the Red Hawks received 15-straight points from their reserves to storm back to take a 28-26 lead. They never trailed again after that en route to a 80-66 road victory.
Vanessa Solano knocked down two 3-pointers in that run, while Abby Hartmann made a pair of layups. Anna Fahrney also converted a basket and knocked down a free throw, while Abi Payne provided the other basket on a layup. The bench accounted for six of Ripon’s seven made field goals in the second quarter, with Alison Leslie recording the other.
The Red Hawks shot just 32% (6 of 19) from the field and were of 3 behind the 3-point line, before doing a wholesale substitution with 6 minutes, 30 seconds left in the first half. After that, they shot 60% (6 of 10) the rest of the half.
“When we subbed, they just played so aggressively and we are really proud of them for that,” Ripon head coach Lauren Busalacchi said. “On both ends of the floor, Abi, Abby, V[anessa], Jord[an Bukouricz] and Anna were all over the place. Defensively they created deflections and rebounded well and offensively they reversed the ball well and cut really well. It’s exactly what we needed and we probably wouldn’t have come out on top without their outstanding performance that second quarter.”
While the bench players got the Red Hawks back in the game in the second quarter, the starters created separation to begin the second half with a 10-1 run. Skyylar Brescia accounted for six of those points on layups. While Bonnie Jensen also made a layup. Brescia and Kiana Fall also made a free throw during that stretch.
The Fighting Scots (3-4 conference, 7-9 overall) answered with a 10-2 run of their own to close to within 42-39, but Ripon (6-1 overall, 10-6 overall) closed the quarter with baskets from Jensen and Leslie to take a 46-39 lead.
Bella Opelt then scored the first four points of the fourth and Ripon led by at least eight the rest of the way, including by as many as 15.
“Our starters played more confidently, including just finishing better around the rim,” Busalacchi said. “We rebounded better those quarters as well and knocked down free throws, which mattered down the stretch.”
The Red Hawks closed the game out by going 10 for 10 at the free-throw line in the final minute.
The teams shot a relatively similar percentage from the field and the free-throw line in the game, but the difference was that Ripon took 19 more field goal attempts. That was due in part to Ripon out-rebounding the Fighting Scots 13-6 on the offensive glass and winning the turnover battle 20-8. Ripon out-scored the Scots in second-chance points 20-17.
“We really want to be aggressive when the ball is in the air and hunting offensive putbacks is a big play for us post game-wise that we recognize,” Busalacchi said. “Crashing the boards on the offensive end was something we were actually really poor at in the first quarter and were better the rest of the game and like our bench play, offensive rebounding is a difference maker.
The Red Hawks, who also had a 42-22 edge in points in the paint, finished the game shooting 45% from the field (29 of 64) and 82% (18 of 22) at the free-throw line. Monmouth shot 44% (20 of 45) from the field and 86% (19 of 22) on free throws. It out-shot the Red Hawks behind the 3-point line 37% (7 of 19) to 29% (4 of 14).
Brescia led Ripon in scoring with 14 points, while Fall added 13 points and Jensen contributed 12. Solano made a trio of 3-pointers to finish with nine points, while Opelt and Leslie added eight points each.
Bukouricz came off the bench to lead the Hawks with eight rebounds and three assists, while scoring four points.
Ripon downs Lawrence
The Red Hawks wasted no time taking charge against the rival Lawrence Vikings last week Wednesday night as they jumped out to a 31-9 advantage after the first quarter and cruised to a 71-38 road win.
The victory marks their 29th-straight win against Lawrence, a streak that dates back to 2008.
“The team came out really aggressive offensively, moved well and we able to string together multiple stops in a row on the defensive end, which gave us an advantage offensively,” Busalacchi said.
The teams were tied at 5-all three minutes into the game, before Ripon closed the quarter on a 26-4 run. During that stretch, the Red Hawks made 13 of 16 shots (81%) from the field, which included a pair of 3-pointers.
Brescia accounted for 10 of Ripon’s 26 points during the run, which included eight of the first 10 points on four layups. She also stole the ball and found Opelt for a fastbreak layup to get the run started.
Overall, the Red Hawks scored 18 of their 31 points in the first quarter on layups. They also made three 3-pointers, which included back-to-back ones from Fall, to go along with a jumper and two free throws.
Ripon’s defense took it from there as it held the Vikings to just 18% shooting (9 of 49) from the field, which included 12% (3 of 26) in the second and third quarters.
It did put the Vikings (2-6 conference, 6-11 overall) on the free-throw line 24 times, from which the Vikings converted 17 for nearly half of their points for the game. Ripon was just 3 of 5 at the line.
We rebounded really well which is a signature for us to compete and finish possessions. So we were happy with executing that and just getting into gaps and getting touches and securing loose balls,” Busalacchi said.
The Red Hawks, who got everyone on the roster minutes in the game, finished shooting 45% (32 of 71) from the field.
They out-scored Lawrence 52-12 in the paint, 21-8 in points off turnovers, 16-2 in second-chance points and 28-17 in points off the bench. Ripon also out-rebounded the Vikings 51-32, which included 15-7 on the offensive glass.
Brescia led Ripon in scoring with 16 points in just 16 minutes, while adding six rebounds and three steals. Opelt also recorded double-digit points with 11, while Jensen chipped in with seven. Fall, Bukouricz and Payne contributed six points each, while Presley Buwalda, Cydney Pittenger and Eldorado native Molly Johannes finished with four points apiece. Bukouricz pulled down a team-high nine rebounds for the Red Hawks in the win.
Ripon will try to extend its winning streak to five games Tuesday, when it hosts the Lake Forest Foresters at 5:30 p.m.
It also will host the Grinnell Pioneers Saturday at 1 p.m. inside the Willmore Center.