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Lady Knights squander lead, fall to Pitt-Johnstown

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The Queens College women's basketball team held on to minimal leads and fended off the Lady Cats for most of the game. But like weak cement trying to fill the cracks of a dam, the Lady Knights could not hold off the ensuing flood.

Johnstown went on a seven-minute 20-5 second-half run to overcome an eight-point lead, en route to a 62-46 non-conference win. The run crushed the Lady Knights' hopes of an upset victory over the perennial NCAA Division II Tournament participant.

"We answered them. We answered them. We've hung tough," Queens coach Jerry Ingenito said. "I'm disappointed because this was an opportunity. This was a blown opportunity."

With 7:42 to go in the second half, Jessica Rietscha's three-pointer from the wing gave Johnstown a 39-37 advantage - a lead it would never relinquish. The Lady Cats then increased their advantage to seven and the Lady Knights stayed even with Johnstown over the next two minutes. Down five with 3 1/2 minutes to go after leading scorer Elena Rakova missed two free throws that would have cut Queens' deficit it to three, Johntown's Jessica Greene connected on a back-breaking four-point play.

Queens point guard Anica Gant turned to box Greene out in the corner, but she came a bit too close and knocked over the Lady Cats' leading scorer with her hip. All Gant could do was watch as Greene lay on her back, her shot ripping through the net. Greene got up and sank the bonus shot from the charity stripe, leaving the Lady Knights to wonder what went wrong.

One explanation might be their 8-of-23 shooting in the second half (34.8 percent), 9-of-18 free-throw shooting and 27 turnovers for the game. Queens lost its poise under the pressure of Johnstown's 1-2-2 full-court press and hurt itself with mistakes, like Greene's four-point play.

"We had a plan with [the press]," said Queens' Erin Dollard, who led all scorers with 17 points. "If we went with the plan it would have worked."

Ingenito was perplexed by his team's play, adding, "How good do we have to be? We have to defend three to four more times than the other team [because of turnovers]. We're tough defensively, but eventually we broke down. If we play a team even up and play the same amount of possessions, we beat everybody.

"I told them at halftime, 'Who's controlling the game? It's us. It's all what we do. If we make layups, if we make foul shots,'" the coach said. "But we've been saying that a lot. We lost by 15. In a four-minute span we lost by 15."

The Lady Knights' defense in the first half was controlling, and despite 17 turnovers, they took a 22-18 lead into halftime. Dollard's 11 first-half points, including 4-of-4 from three-point range, led Queens.

"We didn't play hard," Dollard said. "We didn't deserve to win that game at the end. We made so many mistakes. Layups and foul shots were the game. We missed so many foul shots. We broke down on defense. We couldn't score. That was definitely our biggest problem. We'll go and get leads and we won't go 40 minutes hard. We'll go 36, 30, and you can't win that way."

Johnstown, which hadn't played in three weeks, committed 13 turnovers of their own in the first half (20 for the game), but its coach, Jodi Gault, who picked up her 399th win, was wondering when her team would finally turn it on. At one point, in true Bobby Knight form, she flung a chair backward in disgust.

The team eventually responded and broke its way through the weak cement.

Posted 7:02 pm, October 10, 2011
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