Bruins fight off speedy, driven Loretto squad
The No. 3 Bear River girls basketball team braced itself for what it figured was to be anything but an easy game against No. 6 Loretto at Jack R. McCrory Gymnasium Thursday night.
And Loretto didn’t disappoint, bringing speedy guards, intense ball pressure and a harassing full-court press to town.
But in the end, the Bruins remained composed against the pressure, hitting big shots in the final quarter and holding off the visiting Lions 54-44.
Three Bruin starters – Lauren Juric, Chandre Uno and Kristin Landre – played every second of the 32-minute game, all playing significant roles in the win. Bear River only went two deep into its bench the entire game.
Juric proved once again why she was recently named the Pioneer Valley League’s Most Valuable Player, after she posted a double-double – essentially twice. She finished with 22 points, 20 rebounds and three blocks.
Her performance came even as the Bruins struggled at times to get the ball to her into the post because of Loretto’s back-court pressure. After fouling out in each of the past two games, Juric stayed out of foul trouble, despite a wealth of contact under the basket. Her first foul came with one minute and 16 seconds remaining in the third quarter.
“It was tough (to rebound),” Juric said. “I felt like I had arm jewelry on the whole night. But I just ripped the ball from them because I wanted to win so badly.”
Loretto featured an undersized lineup, something Lions coach Jeff Hart said is fairly normal. Just three players stood 5-foot-10 or taller.
“Their size did hurt us,” Hart said. “No. 31 (Juric) is a really nice post player, but they made shots when they needed to.”
The Bruins played from behind during almost the entire first quarter, taking their first lead of the game at 11-8 after a Juric 3-pointer with 25 seconds remaining in the quarter.
After a back-and-fourth second quarter the teams went into halftime tied at 23. But shortly before the end of the third quarter, the Bruins went on a run, outscoring the Lions 9-2 into the beginning of the fourth quarter.
With 5:41 remaining in the game, the Bruins built a 40-32 lead.
“Every time they’d make a run, we’d make a play and they couldn’t ever get the lead under six – which was nice for my heart,” Bear River girls coach Jeff Bickmore said with a grin after the game.
Sixth man Kaitlyn Spence scored six of the Bruin’s final 12 points, playing significant minutes after starter Katie Thompson fouled out with more than six minutes to go in the game. Spence ended up with six points.
Uno, a sophomore point guard, helped Juric shoulder the scoring load despite being the main recipient of the Lions’ harassing ball pressure, with a strong shooting night for 14 points. Landre chipped in with eight points and seven rebounds, with junior guard Erin Noud scoring two points to go with five rebounds. Thompson added a bucket.
The Bruins (21-7) now face No. 2 Ripon on Wednesday at Tokay High School, with the time still to be determined.
To contact sports writer Stacy Hicklin, e-mail email@example.com or call 477-4244.
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Hank Sowell’s introduction to the game of golf came early as a set of clubs was among the gifts he received on his very first birthday.