Petrus leads Hornets to OT win over R-MC
WINCHESTER — With four seconds left on the clock, the Shingleton Gymnasium crowd let out a loud “ohhhhh!” as Shenandoah University junior guard Crystal Petrus blocked a Randolph-Macon College 3-pointer in the left corner.
On a night in which Petrus repeatedly wowed the 372 people in attendance, it was a fitting end.
Petrus scored a career-high 31 points — including all seven of the game’s points in overtime — to lead the Hornets to a 65-58 Old Dominion Athletic Conference win over the Yellow Jackets Tuesday night.
The victory — which gave SU (11-13, 7-8 ODAC) a season split with the Yellow Jackets (5-19, 4-11), the team that Hornets head coach C.K. Calhoun was an assistant coach for for the past two years — clinched an ODAC first round home playoff game for SU (11-13, 7-8 ODAC). That game will be played at 7 p.m. Monday against an opponent to be determined.
For Calhoun, the way SU played Tuesday showed how important it was for the Hornets — who had lost their past two games — to open the conference tournament at home, where they are 8-3.
“We talked about this in practice — we had a job to do, and that was to own home court,” said Calhoun, whose team is sixth in the ODAC standings. “We play much better at home, and we talked about how we’ve got to do better every day, and that it starts at home, and that it starts tonight.”
The Hornets’ intensity was certainly evident on defense. R-MC made just 17 of 62 field goals (27.4 percent, including just 3-of-19 from 3-point range), went 0 for 12 from the floor in overtime, and committed 19 turnovers.
But on a night in which SU struggled with 28 turnovers, it was crystal-clear who the most consistent offensive force for the Hornets was.
Petrus — who had made 40 of the Hornets’ 93 3-pointers coming into Tuesday — has a well-deserved reputation as an outside shooter, and as a result, she said teams have been playing her tighter than ever lately on the perimeter.
So against R-MC, Petrus — whose previous career-high was 19 against Lynchburg Jan. 26 — became a slasher from the start, and she administered some damaging cuts.
She scored her first points at the 14:22 mark after hitting two free throws following a drive to the basket, and she closed the first half by banking in a runner at the buzzer for her 10th and 11th points to make it 30-28 R-MC, prompting Jackets coach Carroll LaHaye to spin toward the bench in annoyance.
Petrus kept it up in the second half, adding 13 points to help send the game into overtime at 58 apiece.
But it was in overtime where she really shined.
With neither team having scored halfway through overtime, each side desperately needed someone to step up, and Petrus did so by knocking down a 3-pointer — her fourth make in four attempts from beyond the arc — from the left corner after taking a pass from point guard Ashley McGhee to make it 61-58 with 2:19 to go.
Petrus felt that her ability to get to the basket Tuesday started to create some space for her on jumpers by the end of the game, and that definitely paid off in overtime.
Petrus (10 of 16 from the field) said she almost didn’t shoot that 3 from the corner because she was thinking about her previous miss from the field, but no one rushed out to defend her attempt after she got the ball.
“I was like, ‘I don’t know if I should shoot it,’” said Petrus, who closed the game with a driving bank shot and a layup to create the first lead larger than four points for either team since the 11:39 mark of regulation. “But I was confident as I shot it, and when it went in I think it definitely hyped up the team a lot.”
With the way SU was playing defense, that 3-pointer was all they needed.
Though R-MC was definitely hurt in overtime by not having point guard Khajae Hester (11 points, five assists) on the floor — she was called for her fifth foul after the referee said she pushed off with her arm with 1:52 left in regulation — the Hornets had caused the Jackets fits since halftime.
SU held R-MC to 7-of-26 shooting in the second half — even using, for them, a rarely-used zone defense for a few minutes starting with just over nine minutes to go in order to take away penetration — and got a big steal from Nicole Gilbertson (10 points, three assists) with six seconds left in regulation when R-MC had a chance to win.
“Down in crunch time, we were even more in their face than before. making them take shots close to the end of the shot clock,” Gilbertson said. “This was definitely a huge win for us, and going into the conference tournament we needed a morale-booster.
“We’ve been working really hard, and the past few losses have been tough, but we’ve been there all those games. Tonight our work ethic, and working our butts off in practice, paid off.”
Gilbertson said it also meant a lot to get a win for Calhoun against R-MC because of Calhoun’s ties to the school. LaHaye has a young team this year (just three juniors and no seniors), but with more than 500 career wins, Calhoun would love to have the type of success LaHaye has.
“I want to be like her, coaching as long as she has in the ODAC and being as successful,” Calhoun said.
The Hornets were also led by Holly Chittenden (10 points, eight rebounds, five assists) and Imani Heggins (10 rebounds).
R-MC was also led by Lauren Vugteveen (13 points, 11 rebounds) and Sarah Parsons. Sherando graduate and R-MC forward Paige Mills had three points and five rebounds in 21 minutes of action.
— Contact Robert Niedzwiecki at firstname.lastname@example.orgFollow on Twitter @WinStarSports1