There was a ton of talk after the Lady Raiders’ loss Tuesday night against Jackson State, a team that won 22 games in a row at one point last season, made the NCAA Tournament, and brought back many of its star players. The word on the street was that the result was unacceptable and that someone had to be held accountable.
Last night’s opponent, Colorado, returned most of its top scorers from their NCAA tournament appearance and dominated Jackson State earlier in the season. To many outside the program, the game was over before it began. Instead of listening to the noise, the Lady Raiders came into the night determined to get a win, no matter how bleak that win appeared.
At the 4:00 mark of the 2nd quarter, the Lady Raiders were down 16. You read that right. Colorado was shooting lights out, and the Lady Raiders were having trouble finding a rhythm and struggled guarding the Lady Buffaloes’ offensive attack.
On the next possession, freshman Ashley Chevalier found freshman Bailey Maupin for a three-point shot that began a run for Texas Tech to pull them back into the game. To end the first half, the Lady Raiders outscored Colorado 8-0 and lowered the deficit to seven going into half.
Later in the game, the aforementioned Maupin and sophomore guard Rhyle McKinney made play after play to keep the Lady Raiders in the game. The duo combined for 42 of Texas Tech’s 86 points.
In the overtime period, newcomer Jazmaine Lewis made the game-winning shot and secured the game-winning rebound for the Lady Raiders.
It was a game that involved a ton of emotion and the crowd, while small, was electric. The victory was easily top-5 in the Gerlich era of coaching and is something I believe could be seen as a turning point for this program.
This team is a combination of very young an very old. There are five 5th-year seniors on this squad, and all five are integral parts of the rotation. Bryn Gerlich and Tatum Veitenheimer are catalysts for the offense and are very sound defensive players for the team. Ella Tofaeono is the strong, stoic anchor to the defense. Bre’Amber Scott is one of the best scorers in the league and there isn’t a thing Katie Ferrell can’t do on the floor.
Once Ferrell returns from injury, the Lady Raiders will have one of the best senior cores in the Big 12 Conference. While that’s all incredible, in 6 months time, all five will be done playing basketball for Texas Tech.
The real story of last night is how the underclassmen on this team stepped up. 12 players stepped on the floor last night for Coach Gerlich. Seven of them were freshman and sophomores.
The future of this program showed out last night. Players not expected to have to step up in big moments shined.
Sophomore Saga Ukkonen and freshman Jazz Shavers are going to be elite shooters this season for the Lady Raiders. Both are incredibly athletic and compete like crazy.
Sophomore Lana Wenger came off the bench after Tofaeono had fouled out and secured three offensive rebounds and nailed 3-4 free throws and played stout defense in the final minutes of the 4th quarter to keep the Lady Raiders in the game.
Freshman Kilah Freelon only played 6 minutes, but was made an immediate impact with her insane athleticism and high motor (Side note: Freelon will dunk in a game before her career is up, she’s that athletic).
Freshman Ashley Chevalier played 24 minutes off the bench and her quickness and basketball IQ impacted the game on both ends of the floor.
Freshman Bailey Maupin scored 20 points and hit clutch shot after clutch shot after clutch shot. Not to mention she plays with a swagger that is incredible.
Sophomore Rhyle McKinney has led this team in scoring and is the go-to player for the Lady Raiders. She dropped 22 last night and also was incredibly clutch.
This year’s recruiting class is going to make an impact next season. There’s three currently signed and they all have elite traits and will be incredible Lady Raiders.
The future of this team is bright. Really bright. This year’s team might not win a National Championship, but it will set the table for the next generation of Lady Raider Basketball players.
Don’t doubt this group, and don’t doubt Coach Gerlich!