Holy Family coach Mike Soroka promised a different look from the last time his Lady Tigers appeared at Wingate's Cuddy Arena, a 95-41 loss in 1988. Last season, Wingate defeated Holy Family, 72-67, in Philadelphia.
"It's frustrating to come this far and not win," Soroka said. "We played pretty well on their home floor. We're in a situation here where we've got to play a perfect game. We had a couple of dry spells offensively, and you can't do that against a team this good."
Holy Family was never able to grab the lead, but it stayed close enough to irritate the 12th-ranked Lady Bulldogs. Coming into the game, Soroka wanted to keep Wingate's explosive running game under 80 points - it averaged over 87 a game, 10th nationally in scoring offense.
"We knew we couldn't let them get out and run with it," Soroka said.
Holy Family used its disciplined spread attack on offense to create back- door opportunities against the Lady Bulldogs' man-to-man. Marie Orth and District 19 player of the year Debbie Schopfer continually found open lanes off rear picks for easy buckets. Schopfer finished with a game-high 21 points.
But she was called for three costly fouls in the first half. She got her fourth with 11 minutes, 42 seconds left in the game, with the Lady Bulldogs holding a 47-42 lead and was forced to the bench for the next 4 minutes.
After Schopfer's exit, Holy Family went five straight possessions without trying a shot. Meanwhile, Wingate scored 7 straight points to open a 54-42 lead.
Wingate's two-time All-American forward Direne Thomas scored back-to-back baskets to key the run and finished as the team's high scorer with 20, many of which came from penetrating the Holy Family zone for shots in the lane.
When Schopfer reappeared, she scored 6 straight points, but the Lady Tigers failed to cut their deficit under double figures in the final 7 minutes.
"With our offensive scheme, it's not possible for us to get into the 80s," Soroka said. "But we didn't get our points. We didn't get on the offensive boards like we usually do. And turnovers came at the worst possible moment. You can't beat Wingate (by scoring 61 points)."
Wingate executed as well as it had hoped to, according to Wingate coach Johnny Jacumin. The Lady Bulldogs, who see very little of the passive zone defense run by Holy Family, tried to pound the ball inside, one of the reasons Schopfer got into foul trouble.
"What we wanted to do was take it inside and they kick it back out for open jumpers, " Jacumin said. "We made some and we missed some. With their deliberate style of play offensively and defensively, it's hard to get a run going."
Not hard enough for Holy Family.