Strom's strong effort not enough as Spartans fall to WolfPack

Trinity Western’s Holly Strom  earned her fifth double-double of the season, including 28 points and 11 rebounds, but it wasn’t quite enough for the Spartans women’s basketball team as it fell 81-72 to Thompson Rivers on Thursday (Jan. 31)  at the Tournament Capital Centre.

Despite Strom collecting 21 points in the first half and helping the Spartans (5-12) to a 40-39 lead at the break, the WolfPack (13-5) was too strong in the second half, out-scoring the visitors 42-32 over the final 20 minutes en route to the win.

The WolfPack, who were led by a Diane Schuetze and her 28-point, 17-rebound effort, opened a seven-point lead through the third quarter and the Spartans never got closer than five points the rest of the way.

After Strom, who also added four assists and two steals, the Spartans had major contributions from Emily Knauff, who had 16 points and seven rebounds and Chelsey Olsen, who had 13 points and five boards. Strom’s 28 points was three off her career-high of 31, which she earned earlier this season against Victoria Nov. 17.

"Tonight's game was a battle and I thought we did a lot of the things we talked about this week to put ourselves in a position to come out with a win,” said Spartans coach Cheryl Jean-Paul.

“We knew that they have two great offensive threats that would get their scores but our goal was to play a sustained pace for 40 minutes and play with a sense of freedom.

“I think Holly definitely made some tough shots to get us back in the game in the second quarter and Emily had some great mismatched scores in the second half to respond to that challenge. We made some critical errors, giving up too many easy scores at the free throw line in the first half and a few too many easy second chances later in the game that prevented us from closing the gap.

“But I'm really proud of this team's effort and belief in the vision that I have for this program, and we are prepared to battle again tomorrow."

Thompson Rivers got off to a hot start in the opening quarter as it raced out to a 17-point advantage, at 26-9, and, after the first quarter, possessed 28-15 lead. If not for Strom, the Spartans could have been in a much deeper hole as the TWU forward earned 11 of her team’s 15 points.

But after a first quarter that was entirely dominated by TRU, the second quarter was precisely the opposite.

With Strom leading the way with 10 points in the second frame, TWU clawed its way all the way back into the game. With the WolfPack up 30-22, the Spartans went on a 12-1 run, which  capped by three-point play that saw Olsen drop a lay-up followed by a made free throw, to give TWU a 34-31 lead,. From there it was back and forth the rest of the quarter and with a jumper from Strom with one second left in the half, TWU went into the break up 40-39. The Spartans outscored TRU 25-11 in the second quarter.

In the third quarter, TRU’s Schuetze earned a lay-up 16 seconds in and from there, up 41-40, the home side never trailed. The WolfPack went up by as much as 14 points before TWU closed the gap to seven after a late lay-up from Knauff made it 59-52 heading into the final frame.

In the fourth quarter, the WolfPack kept the Spartans at arm’s length throughout as it rolled to a nine-point victory. The Spartans made it a five-point contest after Knauff’s jumper made it 59-54, but, unable to sustain momentum down the stretch, TWU hung with TRU but was unable to put together a comeback effort in the waning minutes.

The teams will face each other in a  rematch Friday (Feb. 1) night.

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