By Owen Yancher,
The Davis High women’s basketball team had plenty of reasons to start Friday’s game slow. They were playing at an unfamiliar, ostentatious venue, against a solid opponent, with pressure from a more than energetic audience. But they didn’t.
Instead, the Lady Blue Devils surged to an early 10-point advantage in the first quarter. But despite the running start, the St. Francis Troubadours outmatched the Devils 67-59 Friday, Jan. 9 at Sleep Train Arena, handing Davis (5-8, 0-2) its second league loss in a row.
Sophomore Kelsey Forrester was her usual self, leading the locals with 23 points, hitting seven threes and persistently pestering St. Francis on the defensive end.
In a bizarre collision late in the third quarter, Forrester struck legs with a Troubie defender and hurt her shin. She sat out a few minutes, received attention from the team trainer, then limped right back into the game and drilled some long threes in the fourth.
“She’s very passionate,” head coach Heather Highshoe said. “She’s able to create space for herself and her teammates trust her to take those shots.”
Forrester appeared to have more trouble distinguishing between the NBA and high school three-point lines on the court than she did with her injury. She scored nine of Davis’ 19 first-quarter points by connecting on three of three from downtown.
Besides Forrester, junior Cara Satre tallied 10 points and snatched a team-leading six rebounds. Sophomore Grace Gulsvig followed Satre with nine points, dishing out three assists.
“I was happy to see [junior] Tessa [Malone] (six points), Grace and Cara putting up shots,” Highshoe said. “We’ve needed them on the offensive end lately.”
After the Devils’ hot first quarter, St. Francis began to slowly creep back from its 19-10 deficit. The Troubies 6-foot-2 senior, Lauren Craig, inflicted most of the damage en route to a 19-point performance. Even with triples from senior Rachael Allison and Forrester, the Troubadours found themselves tied with Davis 26-26 at the half after a handful of poor Devil shooting fouls.
Sleep Train Arena came to life in the second half. Fans began to file in for the later men’s game and each fan base became more and more rowdy.
“It’s exciting playing here. It’s fun for the girls,” Highshoe said. “I don’t think they were really nervous at all.”
The game stayed even throughout the third quarter. Highshoe praised senior guard Anna Belenis for her careful ball handling; in the third, Belenis dispensed two of her team-leading six assists: one to set up junior Maria Voss for a filthy lay-up, another connecting with Forrester for an NBA-length three.
The Troubadours went scoreless in the final two minutes of the third, after a steal from Satre and a key block from junior post prodigy Anika Kingsley, but still held a 42-39 led at the end o the quarter.
The Devils were bombarded in the fourth as St. Francis went on an uncontested, five-minute, 12-point scoring run. But the Davis intensity didn’t let up.
Forrester, Satre and Gulsvig each hit triples and the Lady Blue Devils only trailed by five, 61-56, with little over a minute left. Then, St. Francis senior Lauren Craig hit a jumper, dished out an assist on the following offensive possession and hit two free throws to secure her team’s 67-59 win.
On the positive end, Friday’s team looked remarkably better than it did Tuesday against Elk Grove.
“They’re getting more hungry and things are starting to come more and more together,” Highshoe said. “ Everyone truly went in and did their part to own their position. Despite the loss I’m very pleased with how they played.”
Davis continues its league play Tuesday afternoon at Sheldon High (5-10, 0-2) before returning home Thursday night to host Pleasant Valley (13-1, 2-0).
“I feel great about next week, I feel great about the next 12 league games we have and just continuing to build upon the good stuff we do and learning from the rest,” Highshoe said.