Makenzie Fancher scored 20 points and dished five assists in Christopher Newport's 75-67 win over Mary Washington last Wednesday.
You don’t have to stare at the statistics very long before recognizing the balance in Christopher Newport’s lineup. The Captains average nearly 76 points per game despite their leading scorer, Sam Porter, averaging a not-so-eye-popping 12.1 points per game. They do it with 14 players averaging at least 2.5 points per game.
That means there is no obvious go-to player – nobody for defenses to go to in trying to shut down CNU’s offense. That balance is the main reason the Captains are still undefeated after last Wednesday’s showdown against archrival Mary Washington, which also was undefeated and in the top 10 heading into the clash with CNU. Captains coach Bill Broderick said he expected UMW to try to take away CNU’s low-post offense. That opened the floor up for all-conference guard Makenzie Fancher. She scored 20 to lead her team to its best win so far this season.
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“We get a lot of consistent scoring from our post players,” Fancher said Monday after learning she had been named the CAC’s player of the week. “For the Mary Wash game, they were focusing on Sam and Jess (Daguilh) and Devon (Byrd). That opened it up for our guards. I was just kind of going with it, and the team did a great job finding me on the outside.
“But if it’s not me, it’s someone else. That’s the great thing about our team. Someone different can step up on any given night.”
“It’s a philosophical thing. We don’t have to rely on any one person,” Broderick said. “It’s more about the system. The kids buy in and they know it’s not about stats, it’s not about all-conference. If these things come, they come. If they don’t, they don’t.”
Indeed, seven different players have led the team in scoring in a game this season, and last Wednesday’s effort was just the fourth 20-point game for a CNU player. Five times the Captains’ leading scorer has tallied 12 or fewer points.
That’s a different dynamic than the one posed by UMW, which features two clear offensive standouts in Brianne Comden and Kendall Parker. The Captains remember Parker well from her 36-point tour de force in last February’s CAC semifinals in Newport News. She scored 16 on 4-for-14 shooting last Wednesday. Comden scored seven, shooting 2-for-7.
“We were able to do a good job on their two leading scorers,” Broderick said. “(Parker) was able to get 16, but it took her (14) shots, and she hit some tough shots. You’ve got to give her credit. It was just a matter of not letting her get a lot of open looks. So I think that’s probably as good of a job as we can do on a great shooter and great scorer. And the Comden kid is probably the best player in the league.”
Broderick keeps a measured perspective on the win. The two teams will meet again next Wednesday at Mary Washington.
“It’ll be tough for us, going to their place,” he said. “On paper, they’re the more veteran team than we are. I know you’re supposed to hold serve at home, but it was a nice win for us. We don’t put a whole lot into it. The reason it was the most important game is because it was the next game.”
When Broderick says “veteran,” that should be read as “senior.” Fancher, Porter, Byrd and Anitra Thomas are the stars of a junior class with precious few seniors to look up to this year or last. That is in stark contrast to the group that went to the Elite Eight in Broderick’s first year as coach, 2012-2013.
“That group had a legit All-American in Tia Perry, and one more, Nicole Mitchell,” Broderick said. Perry and Mitchell played on the 2011 Final Four team with Chelsie Schweers, a three-time All-American who will be inducted Saturday into CNU’s Hall of Fame. “We’re not quite to that level. Just the leadership that they had. That refuse-to-lose mentality. It’s something that this group is still developing.
Broderick took over as coach two years after Carolyn Hunter departed. That gap left a hole in recruitment. The result was a 2014-15 freshman class of 10 players, with many of them thrust into starting or key bench roles.
“They had one year where they only won 17 (games),” Broderick said. “That’s this year’s juniors. So it’s almost been building from scratch. I’ve been trying to get them to show up with the same energy for every team on the schedule. It’s easy to get up for Mary Wash, for Marymount, for York. They’re starting to realize that a little more.”
Fancher said playing a lot from freshman year on has been beneficial to her and her classmates.
“A lot of programs, most freshmen that come in don’t play right away,” she said. “My freshman year we had 10, and a lot of us had to play right away. Whether you were ready or not, you came in and did your best. Our team is unique because we get leadership from so many people on the team.”
Taking down the Royals
Bernadette Launi finished regulation with 11 points but added six in overtime Saturday to help Catholic knock off undefeated Scranton 82-76 in Scranton. The Royals slipped from No. 3 to No. 7 following the loss while Catholic sits just outside the Top 25.
Federici takes top spot; Tarbert rolls along
Brandon Federici racked up 33 points in last Wednesday’s F&M win over Dickinson, then tallied 22 more in another overtime victory over Haverford Saturday. He passed the Fords’ Joe Scibelli for the Centennial scoring lead and was named player of the week. The women’s award went to Emma Dorshimer of Gettysburg, who averaged 20 points per game last week, including 30 vs. Washington College. She is tied with teammate Emily Gibbons for the team lead.
Matt Scamuffo scored 32 and 31 in a pair of wins for York to take CAC player-of-the-week honors.
At this point, it would be easier to report when Sara Tarbert of Stevenson is not player of the week. She won the award for the fifth time of the season Monday and now has 18 consecutive double-doubles.
Teams tied for first will meet this week al over the region. Dickinson and Haverford, tied atop the Centennial in women’s hoops, square off Saturday at 1 p.m. In the CAC, the Salisbury men visit Christopher Newport Wednesday at 7:30. Landmark men’s leaders Susquehanna and Catholic will meet in D.C. Wednesday at 7.
With Lycoming three games ahead of the pack, the focus in the Commonwealth men’s conference is on the four teams packed in at 5-4: Hood, Alvernia, Albright and LVC. Hood has the best chance to make some hay this week by facing Alvernia and LVC, Wedneday at 8 and Saturday at 2. Both are on the road.