Wednesday, March 13, 2019

Green: Marquette-DePaul III delivered in more ways than one

Photo Credit: Geno Green- College Sports Overload

By: Geno Green
Twitter: @TheGenoGreen

Trilogies do not come often in the world of entertainment and rarely do they stand the test of the time. In the land of college basketball, the third act becomes more of a common occurrence and the latest installment of DePaul/Marquette far exceeded the previous two editions earlier in the season as the Golden Eagles won by 33 and six, respectively.

Chante Stonewall’s conventional three-point play with 5.4 seconds completed a double-digit comeback with a 74-73 win over top-seeded Marquette (26-7), which saw a Wintrust Arena first— a court storm from the fans with multi-colored confetti raining down on center court with No. 2 seed DePaul (26-7) celebrating back-to-back Big East tournament titles.

Stonewall was named the Big East tournament’s Most Outstanding Player after a career-high 28 points deferred to her teammates being the reason for her growth over the last three seasons.

“I understand it is not about one player. It is not about me, it is we and through this whole entire season, it has been times where one game I get 25 and the next end with six,” Stonewall said. “I felt like with my inconsistencies at times that my teammates would have my back to get back at it on the next play. After hearing my teammates saying they believed in me, it helped my confidence.”

The Golden Eagles have been short-handed in one capacity or another in the last month with senior Erika Davenport (left knee) out for the season and Danielle King returning in time for the conference tournament after missing the regular-season finale with a lower-body injury. 

Marquette coach Carolyn Kieger admitted that the period has been an adjustment for a team who was healthy and clicking on all cylinders prior to the injuries.

“We’ve had to really adjust over the last three weeks with Erika [Davenport] going down and it hasn’t been easy. It has taken an emotional toll and it is something we have to figure out and weather the storm,” Kieger said. “We have to still play small, but in those moments, I have to do a better job as coach in terms of lineups and in-game situations because we have to have those rebounds. I know our team will respond and have Erika back and we will not lose another game this season because of rebounding.”

Both teams started out sluggish on offense, but the pace picked up in the latter stages of the first quarter as each team took each other’s best shot as the score was even at 20 after 10 minutes.

With an intense crowd atmosphere, things ramped into another gear when the Marquette men’s lacrosse team arrived in the early stages of the second quarter and went into the stands yelling and enjoying themselves as if a Premier League match had broken out. 

The lacrosse team’s support of women’s basketball has been a thing all season long, but was taken to another level as they flew in and landed at Midway Airport not long after a 17-15 win over Robert Morris earlier in the day. In defeat, Natisha Hiedeman and Allazia Blockton appreciated the support.

“They have been great supporters since day one and the energy they give us is just amazing and we appreciate them coming out,” Hiedeman said. 

“It shows you how tight knit the Marquette family is. Whenever it is a big game, everyone comes out and supports each other,” Blockton said.

The support gave Marquette another jolt of conference as it led for the remainder of the second quarter and took a 40-35 lead into the locker room behind back-to-back layups from Amani Wilborn.

Wilborn’s layups helped spark a 14-2 run which carried into the third quarter, which put Marquette in the driver’s seat with a 50-37 lead. In need of a boost, #DePaulBall went into effect as three-point makes from Maya Stovall and Lexi Held highlighted a 12-2 run, which pulled them to within a possession of Marquette.

The Blue Demons continued to stay within reasonable distance of the Golden Eagles as they were able to exploit the mismatches on the court and relied more on baskets from mid-range and in the paint.

The final 12 seconds of the fourth quarter provided raw drama as Hiedeman failed to draw any part of the basket on the first free throw attempt, but made the second as Marquette clung to a 73-71 lead, which meant DePaul needed a basket as opposed to a three-pointer to force overtime.

Stonewall’s conventional three-point play to overcome a 13-point deficit and Hiedeman’s attempt for redemption coming up short provided the perfect ending to a classic between two established rivals separated by 88 miles.

As the players and coaching staffs change over time, the brands of Marquette and DePaul look to continue to add more chapters to the conference’s best rivalry for years to come.

“Hopefully the battle back and forth continues year in and year out. They’re not going anywhere and I sure in the heck know we are not,” Kieger said. “My plan is to be back here and battle again next year.”

Games like Tuesday night will continue the development of women’s basketball games being showcased on a more frequent basis nationally with invested crowds packing the gymnasiums.