Assistant Sports Editor
Based on Scranton’s 62-45 shellacking of Juniata College on Saturday, it is hard to imagine how the Eagles beat the Lady Royals in December.
The Lady Royals finished with four players scoring double-digit points. A monster second quarter opened up a 33-14 halftime lead Juniata could not overcome, extending Scranton’s win streak to 15.
The win puts Scranton (20-1 overall, 9-1 conference) two games ahead of Juniata (18-3, 7-3) for the top spot in the Landmark Conference standings with four games left in the regular season. The Lady Royals clinched their 11th straight Landmark playoff berth, and, on paper, they seem to have a painless road to securing home court advantage.
Scranton is set to play three more games in the John Long Center where the Lady Royals, on average, have outscored opponents by 20 points. The three-game home slate includes Drew University (12-9, 4-6), Catholic University (15-6, 6-4) and Susquehanna University (9-11, 4-6) before the Lady Royals travel to winless Goucher College (0-21, 0-10) to close out the season.
“We still make it a point to focus on who is next on our schedule, so the only thing we’re really putting our focus on is Drew this (Thursday),” junior guard Bridgette Mann said. “We know the only thing we have control over is the next game ahead of us, not the ones after that.”
Despite losing two Division III All-Americans from last season, the Lady Royals are defying league expectations. They were voted third in the Landmark Conference coaches preseason poll, but right now they appear unstoppable.
Mann, who recently scored her 1,000th career point, is the director of Scranton’s fiery offense and leads the team in scoring (15.4) and assists (3.6) and is virtually automatic on free throws (87.2 percent). She played a significant role on the team her first two seasons, but this year she and the Lady Royals had to find a way to win without 2017 graduates Alexix Roman and Sarah Payonk.
As usual, through strategic scouting and playbook adapting, Scranton found a way.
Each standing 6-foot-2, senior Katie Feehery and sophomore Sofia Recupero provide height and power underneath the basket, a fundamental part of the game head coach Trevor Woodruff said was a concern heading into the season. Also, sophomore Makenzie Mason, a 5-foot-11 guard, tends to cause matchup problems and is second on the team in rebounds (6.3) behind Feehery (6.6).
Senior Katie Broderick, sophomores Julia Gantz and Emily Sheehan and a whole host of other underclass players offer the Lady Royals support around the perimeter, making for a dynamic offense that is difficult to scout against.
Woodruff and the Lady Royals find a way to do it year in and year out.
“The tradition that this program upholds is something that we take a lot of pride in and we expect to be the best every year, and to expect anything less would not make us the championship team we know we are,” Mann said.
The Lady Royals host Drew for the the teams’ second bout of the season Wednesday at 7 p.m. Scranton won the first go-round, 64-51, behind Mann’s game-high 19 points on Jan. 24.