LEWISTON – Welcome to Big 4 basketball, Katie Healy.
The St. Bonaventure freshman from Lancaster didn’t know what to expect in her first clash with Niagara.
The 6-foot-1 forward, who earned News Player of the Year as a high school senior last season, found herself the centerpiece of a key run during a physical, exciting, ugly game as the Bonnies (2-0) held on for a 51-49 victory over Niagara in front of 532 at the Gallagher Center on Monday night.
Healy scored six straight points in a 12-0 run that turned a Bona 38-32 deficit into a 44-38 lead.
CeCe Dixon started the run with a three-pointer, then Healy went to work. She drove the lane, got fouled and hit both free throws. Then she hit a layup, followed by a short jumper. Alaina Walker capped the run with a layup and a free throw.
“It’s all due to coaches and my teammates,” said Healy, who finished with 12 points for the second straight game. “In practice they tell me to keep doing what I’m doing, that I’m so close and almost there. In practices my teammates are hard on me every day and don’t give me a break.”
Oh yes, the veterans take pleasure in schooling the underclassmen.
“I think the starters are doing a good job of taking it at them in practice when they are slacking and not working as hard as they should,” said junior Doris Ortega, who led all scorers with 14 points despite struggling from the floor.
“Katie battles me in the post in practice and I tell her what to expect in a game, what’s going to be open, what’s going to happen. She’s done a great job of learning in practice and transferring it over to the game.”
The Bonnies needed a strong second half after Niagara nailed opened looks and hit tough shots for a 26-21 halftime lead.
The Purple Eagles shot 48 percent (12 of 25) in the first half.
“We got some defensive stops and really were able to get out and go in transition,” Niagara coach Kendra Faustin said. “We also got more inside touches in the first that we didn’t get in the second half.”
Many of those touches were by junior Lauren Gatto, who finished with 12 points and 11 rebounds. She went 6 of 11 from the field and scored from all over the floor, the forward showing improved offensive confidence.
“All summer I practiced hitting outside and inside so I could have both options to my game,” Gatto said. “We knew St. Bonaventure played behind and I worked on turning around and scoring quickly over them.”
While Ortega notched her third career double-double with 10 rebounds to go with here 14 points, she struggled from the floor, shooting just 3 of 16. But she was aggressive in driving to the basket and hit 8 of 10 from the free-throw line.
Kayla Stroman had 11 points, all in the second half, for Niagara (1-1).
Niagara will play at home Thursday night at 7 against Bowling Green while Bona will be home on Friday to Colgate at 7.