Column: Win gives positive outlook for women’s basketball


Karina Delgado

Assistant coach Kyley Simmons, Grace Lennox, Jennifer Nehls, Grace McRae and Lana Marov celebrate the Panthers’ win over No. 2 Southern Illinois Edwardsville Saturday in Lantz Arena. It was the Panthers’ third win of the season.

Kaitlin Cordes, Women's Basketball Reporter


The Eastern women’s basketball team proved the future of the team is bright on Saturday with its win over No. 2 Southern Illinois-Edwardsville.

If you are not convinced, please read on.

Eastern had not one, not two, but five players score in double digits in this battle against the Cougars. Freshman guard Taylor Steele had a team-high 16 points, and fellow freshman guard Karle Pace knocked down 15 points.

Rounding out freshman scoring was forward Grace McRae who had 10 points. Sophomore forward Jennifer Nehls had 12 points on the night.

Perhaps the most telling part of the game was the leadership shown by junior forward Jalisha Smith and junior guard Carmen Tellez.

Smith earned her third double-double of her career with 15 points and 14 rebounds. Tellez knocked down a three and earned a career-high six assists.

Smith embodied great leadership out on the court, especially in overtime when she pulled down three crucial rebounds off of two missed Southern Illinois-Edwardsville layups and one free throw.

The Cougars had been dominating on the offensive rebounds, hurting the Panthers in regulation because most of the time, Southern Illinois-Edwardsville would score off their own rebounds. Eastern out-rebounded the Cougars 6-4 in overtime, however.

Smith said rebounding was her way of keeping up the fight into overtime.

“(Coach Matt Bollant) told us that we just have to keep fighting like the game’s not over,” Smith said. “Everybody has to focus on what they’re good at…and I know I’m good at rebounding so I really focused on doing that well.”

It is exactly that fighting spirit that will translate into a successful 2018-2019 season. Bollant said that when some of his players like Steele and sophomore guard Danielle Berry struggled in the last half, Pace, Smith and others were there to help.

The Panthers looked calm and collected throughout Saturday’s game, and an aggressive, double-team style defense really paid off for the young Eastern squad. This sense of calm helped the team tap into the chemistry that had been overshadowed by losses throughout the season.

The entire season was a learning curve for the team, and they adapted well. Bollant said it can be hard for underclassmen to be leaders at times, so the fact that the freshmen and sophomores gave the juniors that extra boost Saturday and throughout the season shows the potential the team has to be great.

The team ended the season on a high note that can carry into next season, Smith said. She perhaps wrapped up the season and summed up the next season best.

“This game showed we can compete with anybody in the conference. Next season is going to be our season. Mark my words,” Smith said.

Kaitlin Cordes can be reached at 581-2812 or [email protected]