It was the early stages of the fourth quarter as the Duquesne Women’s Basketball Team ran the floor on offense and Amaya Hamilton saw an opening as teammate Laia Sole had space at the three-point line, and without hesitation passed the ball.
Sole, who has made one three-point basket in her time at Duquesne, let it fire from three and the ball found its way through the basket.
“I mean let’s be honest, that’s not my thing but it was great to see it go in,” Sole said. “I’ve been working on it slowly, especially last year. Maybe it’s my new thing who knows?”
Following the game, Sole turned her attention to Hamilton and with a smile was quick to ask a question.
“You probably didn’t expect that to go in did you,” Sole asked.
“It’s going to be her thing now,” said Hamilton. “That was awesome. You got me my assist. I was so hype.”
The pair have every reason to smile as that was part of a 25-6 run that keyed a 58-47 victory over Akron Tuesday night at the UPMC Cooper Fieldhouse.
“I feel like it is very frustrating when you are in close games multiple times on the road and in home games and come up short,” said Sole. “It was very needed for us, we needed that win. Mentally we worked very hard and practices have been hard so we are happy to finally be rewarded with a win. We deserve it and we hope that we start a streak right now.”
For her part, Hamilton gained some confidence on offense scoring 12 points and also had the assignment of guarding Jordyn Dawson who averaged 24 points entering Tuesday’s game.
Dawson left the court scoring four points on 1-of-11 shooting, largely a credit to Hamilton’s efforts of not missing an assignment on the defensive end.
Duquesne coach Dan Burt also was quick to praise Halle Bovell who in her second game back played 25 minutes and grabbed seven rebounds.
Bovell’s +18 was the largest plus/minus by a Duquesne player and Burt recalled that she did want subbed out at one point, but given her knowledge of each offensive position, he told her she was needed on the court.
Sole’s effort though, which came on 9-of-12 shooting was her breakthrough moment of the young season, this after returning to the court less than two weeks prior.
Returning from any serious injury, it takes time to adjust on the court but Sole provided something Duquesne was missing against Pitt, consistent paint production.
In the fourth quarter of Saturday’s City Game, Pitt dared Duquesne to shoot open midrange jumpers and it took the bait and paid the price on the scoreboard.
Sole went to work with eight first half points and started the second half. She rewarded Duquesne’s faith with two quick baskets in the paint, which became contagious across the team, as evidenced by 10 of the team’s 17 third-quarter points coming from the inside.
That also opened up Duquesne’s offense as it would shoot 42.9% from the field in the third quarter and 50% in the last 10 minutes.
It was clear that Sole was enjoying her time out on the court and 22 points certainly goes a long way towards that but from her three-point shot, to a third-quarter buzzer beater, there was a clear happiness with being out on the court, something her teammates noticed as well.
“We’ve all been waiting and Laia has officially made her comeback,” Hamilton said. “It’s really exciting to see. She’s helped us so much and I know she wasn’t able to go full contact for a while, but she has always been supporting us and doing all she could. It was great to see her contribute.”
While Burt did not want to play Bovell nor Sole for 25 minutes, he also wanted to get the win and those two provided the spark Duquesne needed to accomplish that.
LEA PUSHES RIGHT BUTTONS
Early on in the game, Duquesne got caught with its hand in the proverbial cookie jar. It had expected North Allegheny product Rachel Martindale to start as a nod for returning home, but instead, Akron went with its regular starting five and the Dukes had to scramble from its planned man defense to a zone.
Akron scored the game’s opening eight points and assistant coach Cherie Lea had seen enough. It was back to plan A and the man-to-man.
It comes as no coincidence that as Duquesne was making its run in the third quarter, that the defense held Akron to a 21.4% clip from the field.
“I think Coach Cherie is very smart, so it was an easy adjustment and she knows best,” Sole said. “She told us what to do and we did exactly what we said. A big part of the win is her.”
Burt has been there for much of Lea’s career, whether it was playing at UNC Wilmington, as Duquesne’s director of operations in the former’s first season and now back for her seventh season on staff.
As far as Lea is concerned, Burt lauded his assistant, who has become his right hand and believes her future in basketball is a bright one.
“She is incredibly thorough on her scouts and everyone else’s for every game,” said Burt. “We’ve had some good assistants here with Matt (Schmidt), Rachel (Wojdowski), Eddie (Benton), Vanessa (Abel) and been around some other good assists and Cherie is as thorough, intelligent, and has as high of a basketball IQ as anyone I’ve ever been around. She is a very bright star in the profession and I think people will see that as we continue to win.”