By: Nick Borowski
PHILADELPHIA – After defeating Saint Joseph's (1-2) 63-55 in a City 6 rivalry just five days ago, Drexel (2-1) welcomed the La Salle Explorers (1-2) into the Daskalakis Athletic Center last night for another prime match-up. In a back-and-forth game, Drexel won its second home game of the season 71-65.
Dragon’s forward Tessa Brugler led all scorers with 17 points, shooting 8-9 from the field, and led all players with 11 rebounds. Brugler’s timely offensive rebounds helped convert some missed shots into second chance opportunities, which proved instrumental, allowing Drexel to lead La Salle 14-5 in second chance points.
The Dragons opened the game on a 12-2 run through the first five minutes into the first quarter’s media timeout. In the second half of the first quarter, the Explorers answered back, and the teams kept trading baskets until the first quarter’s time expired with Drexel holding an 18-8 lead.
Fifth year guard Hannah Nihill, a local product out of Cardinal O’Hara, quickly picked up two fouls to begin the second quarter, putting her at three fouls in the first half. With the Dragons losing big minutes from their veteran guard, La Salle took advantage and adjusted defensively in a full court press, which ultimately led to five Drexel turnovers in the second quarter and opened a 15-6 Explorer-run to cut the Dragon’s lead to seven. As time was expiring, La Salle senior guard Molly Masciantonio, an Archbishop Carroll alum, pulled up from half court and banked in the shot to send La Salle to the locker room with only a four-point deficit.
The two teams continued to go back and forth all throughout the third quarter with La Salle senior forward Kayla Spruill stepping up offensively, scoring seven points. Every time Drexel seemed like they were going to open up the lead, Spruill and the Explorers answered.
Heading into the fourth quarter down four points, La Salle junior guard Claire Jacobs hit a key 3-pointer in the Explorer’s first possession. On the next defensive possession, La Salle sophomore guard Jaye Haynes, another local standout from Germantown Academy, stole the ball and converted the fast break to give La Salle their first lead of the night, 53-52. Shortly after, Nihill committed her fourth foul, prompting Drexel head coach Amy Mallon to call her to the bench so her main ball handler did not foul out.
The teams traded baskets until the media timeout at 4:35, where La Salle led 60-59. Coming out of the timeout, Drexel senior forward Kate Connolly hit an open three to take back the lead.
As time was winding down, the Dragons called a timeout with 1:24 to go, down 65-64. Drexel subbed Nihill back into the game and she hit a runner to give the Dragons back the lead. On the ensuing La Salle possession, Brugler made two nice blocks on Spruill, back-to-back. With 24 seconds remaining, Nihill penetrated the defense and found a cutting Keishana Washington to give Drexel a 68-65 lead.
La Salle immediately called a timeout and out of the timeout, Jacobs got a good look from three but could not convert. Nihill came up clutch again, securing the defensive rebound and Drexel finished the game 3-4 from the free-throw line to secure the 71-65 victory over the Explorers.
Following the game, La Salle head coach Mountain MacGillivray spoke about how his team responded to the early deficit.
“We had to respond to how tough and physical they were and hats off to them. They got the best of us to start the game. I was really proud of how the team responded. Obviously, the buzz trapping press got (Drexel) out of (Drexel’s) rhythm,” said MacGillivray.
MacGillivray also believed that in the final stretch of the game, Drexel got back to what they did during their initial 12-2 run to open the game.
“I think, some of the things (Drexel) did during the beginning time, they did down the stretch. They knocked a few rebounds free; they scrapped and got a couple put-backs,” said MacGillivray.
MacGillivray attributed the loss to too many second chance points and the Dragon’s shooting 56.6 percent from the field.
“When a team is shooting 58 percent, you can’t let them get 12 offensive rebounds. It’s almost impossible,” said MacGillivray.
Drexel head coach Amy Mallon commented on the rivalry between the two city schools.
“I think anytime two city teams play, this is the kind of game you are going to see,” said Mallon. “I think we saw that tonight with the scoring and everything going on… I’m just pleased with our team coming up with this win.”
Brugler, a 6-1 graduate transfer from Bucknell, also recorded six blocks against the Explorers, which ties the most blocks for a Dragon since Brooke Cornish’s six blocks against Northeastern in 2009. Cornish, another local product from Archbishop Carroll, holds the Philadelphia Catholic league record for 15 blocked shots in a game against Cardinal Dougherty in 2003. Brugler commented on switching to a defensive mindset in the second half of the game.
“I started off strong offensively, but then there were opportunities where I wasn’t really getting touches and contributing on the offensive end,” said Brugler. “Defense has been a really big thing for me. It is something that I have been trying to develop over the past four years.”
Looking Ahead: La Salle will play at home on Saturday (Nov. 20) vs. Niagara at 1:00 p.m. while Drexel will play away against Maryland-Eastern Shore at 2:00 p.m.