John Carroll Women’s Basketball Team avenges 2020 OAC Championship loss with trounce of Baldwin Wallace

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JCU Sports Information

The John Carroll University Women’s Basketball Team celebrates after winning the OAC Tournament Championship at the Tony DeCarlo Varsity Center on March 6.

Anna Meyer, Staff Reporter

A lot has changed since Feb. 29, 2020 — the day the John Carroll University Women’s Basketball squad’s season ended with a loss to crosstown rival Baldwin Wallace University in the Ohio Athletic Conference Tournament Championship game. 

A little over a year later, the Blue Streaks returned to the court in the OAC Championship game with every player from last year and an opportunity for revenge on the 2020 OAC Champions, Baldwin Wallace

John Carroll took full advantage of the opportunity and knocked off the former OAC Champion Yellow Jackets in an 83-71 victory, resulting in JCU being named OAC Conference Champions for the second time in the past three years and the second time in the program’s history.

“It was definitely revenge after last year,” exclaimed senior Nicole Heffington. “We worked so hard for this season, and I really think we deserve this win.”

“The best part was that we got to play against them again,” noted senior Abby Adler. “We obviously didn’t give them our best game last year, so it was nice to play like ourselves and get it done.” 

The quest to earn the hardware was not easy.  

In the offseason, the group of women were without a coach and were unsure if they would even be able to play the season with COVID-19 restrictions. Despite the uncertainty, they continued to work hard to be ready for any opportunity that arose. 

“It feels so awesome. We have worked so hard for this,” noted junior Olivia Nagy after the team was crowned OAC Champions. “We have been preaching high energy all the time and went into this game with a lot of confidence, and we are just glad we came out with a win because it has been a weird season” 

When JCU entered the court for the OAC Championship Game, they knew they needed to make the most of it as this would be their last game of the season, after the NCAA Division III Tournament was canceled due to COVID-19 protocols.

“The moment we found out that news, our gears shifted a bit,” said first-year Head Coach Beth Andrews. “Our gears shifted in a great way of taking advantage of what we have in front of us, and they ran with it. They were not going to let anyone beat them tonight. They knew this was their last game, and those six seniors are never going to get to play with this group again.”

John Carroll got off to a hot start in the first quarter. JCU pushed a 12-0 run, which resulted in outscoring the Yellow Jackets 23-9 and shooting 71.4% from the field as opposed to Baldwin Wallace’s 18.8% at the end of the first quarter. 

In the second quarter, Baldwin Wallace slowly narrowed JCU’s lead, cutting it to within six points at halftime, courtesy of a half-court buzzer-beater shot by Gabby Garrett. JCU led 39-33 at the half. If John Carroll wanted to win this game, they knew they needed a change from the second quarter. 

“We had to focus back on smart defense and when to take chances as well as what we need from each situation, ” said Andrews. “We focused on what we could control and that was a defensive scheme, ball movement and our emotions.”

That needed change happened in the third quarter with John Carroll outscoring Baldwin Wallace 26-18, resulting in a 65-51 lead courtesy of sharpshooting efforts from outside the arc by Adler, Jaylen Hoffmann and Dani Carlson

As the fourth quarter approached, the 2021 season came down to its last 10 minutes for both teams. Ultimately, John Carroll maintained their destiny and kept the momentum they carried throughout the whole OAC tournament to give them the victory they had been waiting for all season. 

The star of the show in the winning contest was 2020 OAC Player of the Year, Olivia Nagy. Nagy captured a triple-double, the second player in NCAA Division III Basketball during the 2021 season to do so. She compiled a team-high 22 points, 13 rebounds and 10 blocks against the Yellow Jackets

Nagy was named 2021 OAC Tournament MVP.

“I was just trying to give it all I had,” stated Nagy after recording a triple-double. “As I said, it’s our last game of the season, and I wanted to play for our seniors and win the OAC Championship”

Nagy was also tasked with going directly against Lily Edwards of Baldwin Wallace, the leading scorer in the OAC. Nagy’s defensive skills, combined with the rest of the Blue Streaks, held Edwards to 16 points, with only eight points coming from the field.

“Liv did a great job. She protected the paint and had to go up against one of the best post players in the OAC,” mentioned Andrews. “She had a task in front of her and took care of business.”

All five of the starters made their mark on the game, contributing double-digit points — Nagy (22), Heffington (15), Adler (14), Carlson (13) and Hannah Bouchy (13). 

“I thought it was a great team win,” said Heffington. “We had a lot of scoring opportunities and executed our plan, so it was just a great team win.”

Both Heffington and Carlson made the 2021 OAC All-Tournament team for their performances throughout the last week. 

After Saturday’s victory, John Carroll finishes the season as OAC Regular and Conference Champions with a record of 13-2. Saturday’s win marks the first-ever time they have ended a season with a win since joining the OAC.

“This year was definitely the year of uncertainty,” noted standout senior Heffington. “Just being able to make it through the whole season and ending on a high note with all of our seniors is so special.”