WBB: Valiants defeat Colonels 81-72 in second matchup


Kirsten Peters

Sophomore forward Gabby Smicherko, who contributed 12 points, seven rebounds and three steals, defends Manhattanville’s Ali Mikaele who looks to take a shot from the corner.

WILKES-BARRE, Pa. — After their victory against Delaware Valley University, the Wilkes women’s basketball team has fallen in four consecutive games, bringing their record to 7-14 overall and 3-7 in conference play. 

Against the University of Valley Forge and Manhattanville College, the Colonels represented themselves as stiff competition and lost by five and nine points, respectively. However, the Colonels struggled against Eastern University and DeSales University, falling by larger deficits of 14 and 33. 

In the game against Manhattanville, Wilkes fell 81-72, but displayed a rejuvenated mindset in the second half of play. 

According to head coach Tara Macciocco, “I think we just played with a lot more energy and effort in the second half. Then we started to realize that we were right in this game with a very good team and started to believe that we could win a bit more.”

As far as the first half of play goes, the Colonels were outscored by the Valiants 45-32, with Manhattanville guard Sarah Coutu proving to be Wilkes’ Achilles heel. Coutu’s game-high 31 points, four rebounds, four assists and three steals were essential to Manhattanville’s success. 

Despite Coutu’s impenetrable game play, the Colonels set the tone for the game. Senior guard Gab Giordano scored what appeared to be an effortless three-pointer ten seconds into the contest, giving way to the three-point battle that would ensue over the course of the game. 

The Valiants capitalized on shots beyond the arc, securing 21 of their 81 points from three-pointers. The Colonels followed suit, scoring 15 points from the three-point line, with one three-pointer being freshman forward Stef Kramer’s clutch shot to tie the game at 51-51. 

“We played extremely hard, but Manhattanville made some key three-point field goals that helped them down the stretch,” noted Macciocco. “We wanted to force them to shoot from the outside, and they made some big shots.”

This proved to be the case from the first quarter, as the Valiants jumped out to a 23-18 lead after securing four three-pointers. The Colonels did have a 16-12 lead following a jumper from senior forward Ashley Caster, but Wilkes’ dominance was short lived, as the Valiants went on an 11-2 scoring run to close out the quarter. 

Upon returning to the court for the second quarter, the Valiants continued their scoring run, capitalizing on fouls made by the Colonels to stretch their lead. Manhattanville’s Coutu made two of her three free throws to open up the quarter, demonstrating the Valiants aggressive game play to shoot from the outside. 

Not only did the Valiants excel with their three-point field goals, but free throws proved to be another one of their strengthens, with Manhattanville making 76.9 percent from the line compared to Wilkes’ 50 percent. 

Despite swishing all five of her foul shots, Giordano noted Wilkes’ free throw percentage as one of their downfalls. 

“Our free throw percentage wasn’t great,” said Giordano. “We made some mistakes down the stretch that ultimately cost us the game.”

Although the Colonels were able to diminish some of their deficit by pushing the lead back into single digits, the Valiants continued to command the court and ultimately finished the first half with a 45-32 advantage. 

“Our game plan was to defensively keep them out of the paint and off the boards and offensively control the tempo and finish,” said Macciocco, noting a similar game plan to last week’s 56-45 victory against Delaware Valley University. 

In the second half of the game, the Colonels came out hot with sophomore forward Gabby Smicherko securing a shot from behind the three-point line. The rest of the Colonels followed Smicherko’s example, as Wilkes went on a 15-4 scoring run to cut their deficit to 49-47 with 5:26 remaining in the third quarter.

With the Colonels momentum building, Kramer executed a perfectly-timed three-pointer to tie the game at 51-51 with 2:44 left in the quarter. Despite the offensive push by the Colonels, Manhattanville regained their lead, scoring the next nine points to reassert their command on the court. 

Giordano, who led the Colonels with 18 points, 10 rebounds and five assists, ended the third quarter with a layup, leaving Wilkes trailing seven points behind at 60-53. 

“Manhattanville is tough,” said Giordano. “They played a very physical and fast-paced game, and I think we matched that well. Even though it wasn’t the outcome we wanted, we definitely got better as a team.”

In the fourth quarter, the Colonels continued their comeback efforts with junior guard Alyssa Alfano paving the way by putting six points on the board. A Giordano three-point play and a Smicherko layup brought the Colonels within two points of Manhattanville’s lead once again. 

However, the Valiants went on another scoring spree, tacking on 10 points to expand their lead to 70-60, which was only stopped by sophomore guard Maddie Kelly’s layup. Kelley played consistent over the course of the game, securing 13 points and six rebounds. 

“It was a tough loss,” said Smicherko, who contributed 12 points, seven rebounds and three steals. “But we improved so much since the first time we played them. We are improving after every game and Coach Macciocco and Coach Lindsay are working hard to make us a more competitive and successful team.”

Smicherko’s remarks highlight one of Wilkes’ major goals this season: improvement.

This loss is not representative of the growth Wilkes has been having as a program, as the Colonels fell to Manhattanville by a significantly larger margin of 83-50 at the beginning of December.

“I’m really proud of the progress that the team has made,” said Macciocco. “Two months ago, Manhattanville beat us by 33 points. For us to bounce back and play them as close as we did shows that we are making great strides and just have to continue to work on the little things each day to become more consistent and walk off the court as better players and a better team.”