When injuries trimmed their ranks to eight players two weeks ago, the Lewis-Clark State women were left with this uneasy notion: They had to rely on their freshmen.
Following Saturday afternoon's 86-66 clubbing of Lethbridge -- L-C's sixth win in a row -- the Warriors seemed reasonably comfortable with a new idea: They can rely on their freshmen.
In early December, when L-C stood at 4-4, serious questions about this season were starting to form. But the Warriors put a sparkling cap on the 2003 side of their season, improving to 10-4 with this victory.
Their three freshmen -- guards BreAnna Mulvey and Terri Wittmer and post Ashley Baker -- were crucial to the winning streak in general and Saturday's triumph in particular. Baker gathered game-high marks with 21 points and 12 rebounds; Mulvey scored 12 points and passed for a career-best seven assists; and Wittmer tossed in 12 points.
L-C coach Brian Orr wasn't carried away with his team's second win over the Pronghorns in as many nights. He pointed out that the Warriors' hit-and-miss defense didn't show the consistency they'll need during Frontier Conference play.
But the emergence of the three freshmen gives LCSC a strong gust of momentum heading into the second half of the season.
"I'm really proud of all three of them," Orr said. "I think they've stepped up and done some good things. And they're all really coachable. They want to get better and they want to be pushed."
The trio provided the offense in the Warriors' game-clinching 14-4 surge midway through the second half. Over that stretch, Baker muscled in four inside baskets -- one of which came off a handsome bounce pass from Mulvey -- and Wittmer added a transition jumper and a 3-pointer. Her trey made it 62-43 with 8:33 remaining.
"We've worked on a lot of things in practice," said Baker, who, unlike her fellow rookies, has logged major minutes the entire season. "We wanted to get our intensity up more, and we've started to work together more."
Despite his small complement of players, Orr ran a full-court press throughout L-C's seven-point win over Lethbridge on Friday evening. So the Warriors played Saturday's game on gummy legs -- especially since it began at 2 in the afternoon.
"I told them, 'Hey, nobody does that. That was a stupid move,' " Orr said of Friday's pressing tactics. "But at the same time, I really think it builds us. It builds our team and builds our character."
L-C will next test its mettle -- and growing string of wins -- on Jan. 2-3, when it plays a doubleheader with Prairie Bible College of Canada. That will be the Warriors' final nonconference action of the season.
NOTES -- Guards Elpidia Valle and Alica Hazlett and post Leah McCauley are the Warriors who are out with injuries. While Valle and McCauley are expected to return at some point after the holiday break, Hazlett is likely out for the season with a knee injury.
Somerville 1-5 3-4 5, Bridge 3-7 0-0 9, Kennedy 5-15 0-0 10, Gregorio 3-8 6-6 15, Edlund 5-9 2-2 13, Sandham 1-5 0-0 3, Lynch 2-3 2-2 6, Thompson 1-2 0-0 2, Lauder 0-6 1-1 1, Tschitter 0-3 2-2 2. Totals 21-63 16-17 66.
LEWIS-CLARK STATE (10-4)
Kalbfleisch 6-14 2-3 16, Mulvey 3-11 5-7 12, Foot 3-10 2-3 10, Baker 6-13 9-13 21, West 3-7 0-0 6, Wittmer 5-6 0-0 12, de Groot 4-5 1-4 9, Morgan 0-0 0-0 0. Totals 30-66 19-30 86.
Halftime score -- LCSC 37, Lethbridge 22. Three-point goals -- Lethbridge 8-22 (Somerville 0-2, Bridge 3-6, Gregorio 3-8, Edlund 1-1, Sandham 1-3, Lauder 0-2); LCSC 7-18 (Kalbfleisch 2-6, Mulvey 1-4, Foot 2-6, Wittmer 2-2). Rebounds -- Lethbridge 44 (Edlund 10); LCSC 40 (Baker 12). Assists -- Lethbridge 13 (Somerville 5); LCSC 15 (Mulvey 7). Total fouls -- Lethbridge 22; LCSC 15. Fouled out -- Kennedy. Technical fouls -- none.