Heidelberg's women underestimated their opponent last week. In doing so they also suffered their third loss on the season.
But that was last week.
The 'Berg entered Saturday's contest with a chip on its shoulder sporting a 9-3 record, its best since the '00-01 season. It quickly bounced back from last week's loss and left the court with a 10-3 record after taking down Muskingum University 85-74.
Heidelberg’s Kathleen Phillips shoots over Muskingum’s Angela Darnley Saturday at Seiberling Gymnasium.
A 10-3 start is great for any team but it's not Heidelberg's overall record that first-year coach Morgan Shriver is focused on.
"A 10-3 start is nice, but it wasn't what was on my mind, overall records don't mean so much," Shriver said. "What really matters now is our conference record."
All three Heidelberg losses have come at the hands of conference opponents, most recently a 80-51 loss at Wilmington. Coming into Saturday's game, Heidelberg was fifth in the OAC, with a 2-3 conference record, the same conference record as Muskingum.
"With us and Muskingum having the same conference record, we knew how important it was to get this win," Shriver said. "We walked into Wilmington last week thinking that they would hand us that game and that wasn't the case."
The 'Berg made it a point not to be caught sleeping again.
"We over prepared this week, and knew exactly what they were gonna bring at us," Shriver said. "Our girls came into this game focused and with that right mindset."
Senior guard Kathleen Phillips, who leads the OAC averaging 21.9 points per game, outdid herself by racking up 31 points, but only eight of those came before halftime. Miscues, and some fouls stifled the star player's performance in the game's first half.
"I had some foul troubles to start the game. With that first one I just wasn't in the spot that I needed to be," Phillips said, "but then Morgan (Shriver) helped me get that all straightened out, got me where I needed to be, and that improved my whole performance."
Phillips' eight points still led the Student Princes as they headed into halftime leading Muskingum 31-22. Muskingum started the second half with an offensive flurry, led by Tori Jarrett who nailed a jump shot and sank two 3-pointers all within a two-minute span, cutting Heidelberg's lead to four points.
"We kept losing sight of number 20 (Jarrett) and we know she's a main player for their team, she shoots 15 to 20 times a game and she wasn't hitting in the first half so we needed to grab those rebounds," Shriver said. "But we missed some of those and they were getting easy putbacks, so we had to make some stops on defense and get back into what we do well."
With a slim four-point lead, Heidelberg went back into doing what it does well - playing as a team. The Student Princes worked together to elevate their star player to another level. Phillips kicked things into overdrive, going 12 for 13 on foul shots and scoring 23 points in the second half.
"I just got the mentality that if we were going to beat this team, I need to go fast, get myself open, and my teammates did a great job of helping me get open. We were all on the same page," Phillips said. "There in the second half it all just came together. I shot very efficiently, had good looks, our team moved the ball very well."
With the team working together as one finely tuned machine, and its star on fire, Heidelberg vaulted to a 25-point lead. Muskingum eventually cut the lead to eight points, but the Muskies got no closer.
Phillips' star may have shined brightest, but it was an overall team effort that gave Heidelberg it's 10th victory of the season. Paige Ricketts did her part, going 8 for 10 on free throws en route to 10 points.
"We had some girls like Jackie Abrecht and Erin Pacholski step in and hit some big shots, and play big minutes for us," Shriver said. "These girls came in and played their roles very well and I thought we were very unselfish as a team and we played really well together."
After its victory over Muskingum, Heidelberg face a big conference test when it travels to Ohio Northern to take on the Polar Bears. Heidelberg will find itself looking at a mirror image as both teams will enter the game with a 10-3 overall record and a 3-3 OAC mark.
"Ohio Northern will be a tough conference game, they are nationally ranked and just knocked off a good Mount Union team," Shriver said, "so we need to come in on Monday ready to practice and get prepared and have the mindset that we can win that game.
"We're sitting in a tie for fourth, and this week we're really gonna see the top teams separate from the bottom teams," she said, "so we needed to get this win if we want to stay in that top half and establish ourselves as top team. It's important for us to get our confidence back and continue down the winning path again."