Jeff Cali Sports Editor email@example.com
With the circumstances that surrounded the East Central women’s basketball program during the preseason, 1-0 never felt so good for interim head coach Emily Holombek and the Lady Tigers.
ECU dominated Southwestern Christian in nearly every facet of the game en route to a 87-56 beatdown Saturday night inside the Kerr Activities Center. It was easy to tell, though, that Holombek felt the pressure of the moment until after the final horn sounded on the big season-opening victory.
“It feels pretty amazing, especially the way we came about it. Everybody got in the scoring column,” a smiling Holombek said following the game. “It feels amazing now that it’s over.”
Holombek, who was the women’s assistant last season, was pushed into the promotion after veteran head coach Kent Franz was suspended from his coaching and teaching responsibilities after being charged with leaving the scene of an accident involving injury. Franz has been reassigned to other duties.
The Lady Tigers used an impressive second half to bury the Lady Eagles. ECU sank an eye-popping 20-of-29 field goals in the final 20 minutes, including 7-of-13 shots from 3-point range. After clinging to a 30-24 halftime lead, East Central would outscore the visitors 57-32 in the huge second half.
ECU accomplished the feat with amazing balance, a characteristic the Lady Tigers used to win 19 games a year ago. Five players reached double figures, and all 10 players in an ECU jersey reached the scoring column.
Ashley Robison, a senior from Sapulpa, led the way for the home team with a game-high 17 points that included five 3-pointers. She also added nine rebounds.
Alycea Price, a senior from Houston, hit 7-of-9 field goals and had 15 points and eight rebounds. Janee Gazra, a 5-4 speedster, scored 11 points off the bench, while Ashleigh Kelman-Poto and Ada High product Erin Walling chipped in 10 points each.
Alex Tucker registered 10 assists — including a no-look, bullet pass to Webster with 3:28 to play that pumped up the Kerr Center crowd and put ECU on top 74-46 — while Dilan Webster was strong off the bench with eight points and seven rebounds.
“Our goal has been the same. We’re just building off last year. We try to push the ball and get everybody involved,” Holombek said. “We don’t have one standout person. That’s what makes this team, and that’s what got us so far last year. We can run a whole variety of lineups depending on what they run and what we want to run.”
The team stats were equally impressive. ECU outrebounded SW Christian 47-33, had fewer turnovers (16-12) and shot 50.8 percent from the field, compared to 34 percent for the Eagles. The Lady Tigers also drilled 12-of-22 3-point shots, compared to a 5-of-20 showing by the visitors.
It looked like ECU was going to put the Lady Eagles away early after a Garza 3-pointer capped a torrid 22-6 Lady Tiger start. SW Christian had hit just one of its first 15 field goal attempts, but a 10-0 run allowed SW Christian to climb back in the game until after halftime.
It was the first of five straight home contests to start the 2013 portion of the ECU women’s schedule. The Lady Tigers host St. Gregory’s at 7 p.m. today before Rogers State visits at 2 p.m. Saturday. ECU will get its first taste of Great American Conference basketball when Ouachita Baptist invades the Kerr Center at 5:30 p.m. Nov. 21.