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Basketball desires conference title

January 28, 2011

The Monmouth College women’s basketball is flourishing in coach Melissa Bittner’s sixth season at the helm. Her Scots have reached 10 wins for the sixth consecutive season, and occupy the runner-up spot in the Midwest Conference, a single game behind perennial power St. Norbert.

After being blown out on the road at St. Norbert on Dec. 4, Bittner’s squad has an upcoming chance at redemption Feb. 4, when they will host the 1st place Green Knights. Coach Bittner likes the makeup of her team and is looking forward to the upcoming slate of games.

“Many freshmen and sophomores have been playing significant minutes for us, and they’ve gained a lot of experience since the first time we played St. Norbert,” said Bittner.

In fact, three sophomores have consistently been in the starting lineup. Coach Bittner employs a fast-paced style of play, both offensively and defensively, playing 10 players and thus shortening the learning curve for those with less experience. The Scots press often and mix up trapping defenses in an effort to generate steals, so as to open up their transition offensive attack.

Thus far on the season, the Scots are averaging 66.5 points and 13.3 steals per game; nearly 4.5 more takeaways per contest than their competition. Although gaudy offensive numbers are nice, it would not be possible without consistent, unselfish guard play. Both senior point guards Justine Boone (with 4.64 average points per game (APG),  65 assists and 50 turn overs in 14 games) and junior Illinois Central College transfer Haley Jones (2.9 APG, 40 assists and 34 turn overs) possess positive assist-to-turnover ratios, a fact not lost on Coach Bittner.

 “Ball handling and the ability to get others involved are key factors we emphasize,” said Bittner.

Four Scots average double figures in scoring: junior Haley Jones (11.4 APG), sophomore Zipporah Williams (11 APG), and sophomores Maddie Nieukirk and Colleen Forrest at 10 points per game.

Although the team has attained success as a unit, there have been some phenomenal individual performances. Senior floor general Justine Boone set the career Monmouth College steals record on Saturday Jan. 22 at Central with her 205th steal, breaking Kari Walters’ record of 204 from the mid-1990s.

Sophomore sharpshooter Colleen Forrest rained in eight 3-point field goals in only 29 minutes of play on Jan. 15, against Lawrence to break the single-game record of seven set by Tina Forth in the 1990s. Forrest finished the game 8-15 from beyond the arc, chalking up 24 points in a 75-39 rout of Lawrence. Forrest is currently 4th in NCAA Div. III women’s hoops with a 48.2% efficiency rate from 3-point land (41/85 on the season). Bittner has faith in Forrest’s stroke.

“She’s one of the few who could spot up in transition, and I wouldn’t mind,” said Bittner.

Fans can catch the Scots (10-4, 8-2 in MWC play) at Glennie Gymnasium on Feb. 5, at 5 p.m. as they look to tie St. Norbert for the MWC conference lead.

 BY KYLE MC EWEN
Contributing Writer

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