The Idaho women’s basketball team could not complete the series sweep against Northern Arizona University (NAU) Wednesday, but one player’s desire to win provided the Vandals with a glimmer of hope.
Junior post Brooke Reilly had an impact on the game. Reilly scored 23 points, hauled in eight rebounds and swiped a team-high four steals.
While individual statistics are undoubtedly important in the outcome of the game, Reilly’s performance cannot be read in the box score.
The true competitor of a basketball player can only be seen visually. Someone can make assumptions based on a player’s accolades or statistics, but they are purely assuming – until it’s seen personally.
Reilly’s stats showed her success on the court, but her work ethic must be seen with someone’s own two eyes to be truly appreciated.
If a loose ball hit the ground, Reilly dove after it. She constantly hustled and looked determined to bring Idaho back from its deficit.
Reilly appeared to play the game with only the thought of defeating NAU in mind.
She did not seem to be thinking about the Big Sky Conference tournament. The thought of possibly possessing the four-seed did not seem to drive her.
When an athlete is worried only the current game, natural ability and instinct tend to take over.
Reilly’s fancy footwork, particularly in the paint, looked routine. She created multiple shot opportunities by keeping defenders off-balance. Whether she stepped back to hit a mid-range fade, drove to the hoop for a layup or pulled up from three, Reilly always answered the call.
Crashing the boards and securing rebounds proved to be another element of Reilly’s game was tough to contest.
She’s no amateur when it comes to amassing a ton of rebounds. In fact, the number of rebounds Reilly had Wednesday was only half of her season-high 16.
Reilly’s awareness also had her near the basketball constantly, both defensively and offensively.
Her offensive capabilities made her one of the Vandals who stepped up when the team made its push in the third quarter.
After scoring nine consecutive points, Reilly cut the Lumberjacks lead by two.
Idaho would go on take the lead with a score of 44-43, but shortly after, Reilly went to the bench with what seemed to be discomfort in her leg.
As Reilly made her way to the bench, it was unsure if her run was enough to put the Vandals in control of the game. Another uncertainty: Reilly’s return.
While Reilly was being aided, the Lumberjacks ended the third quarter with a 6-0 run. She returned to action with roughly seven minutes left in the game, but the Vandals were unable to rally. The Lumberjacks went on to win the game 76-61.
The Big Sky Conference tournament is quickly approaching, so the strong effort from Reilly is a promising sign going forward.
The Vandals’ position in the tournament is in both their control and two other conference opponents.
The Vandals must first defeat Southern Utah in its final regular-season game of the year. However, if the Vandals earn the four-seed, Idaho State and Eastern Washington must lose their final regular-season games.
Just as Reilly managed to go against NAU, Idaho must focus selectively on the task at hand. All the Vandals can control is ending the season with a win.
Zack Ozuna can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or on Twitter @OzunaZack21