Lady Knights look to make strides after Elite Eight run
The Queens College Knights knew the 2017-18 season would be a transition year. Coming off last years elite eight run led by three all-star seniors, the lady knights return two seniors this season in Merrick Rowland and Marina Ramon Lopez. After a 5-4 start, Coach Naumovski knew it would take a quick learning curve from her underclassmen to make a run, and that is certainly what appears to be happening.
Senior guard Merrick Rowland has led the team in scoring with 15 ppg. Rowland has picked up where her older sisters left off from last season, being the consistent scoring threat in every game. What’s also been equally impressive for Rowland is how she gets her teammates involved. Her ability to create for others have helped bring a long some of the underclassmen to make a big impact.
Sophomore guard Beth Bonin, for example, has provided a much needed scoring load with 14 ppg. Bonin has been a sniper from beyond the arc, forcing defenses to play out on her, which in return has opened up driving lanes and additional open looks for Rowland. The tandem have certainly played well together, creating a handful of points off turnovers, and finding their forwards inside.
Junior point guard Kaitlyn Mahon has also been a crucial key to the Lady Knight’s offense. Mahon has been a floor general so far, and has done an exceptional job orchestrating what Queens does well on offense. The ball moves at an efficient rate, usually requiring seven to eight passes before an open shot is taken. Mahon also has provided an additional scoring output with eight points per game.
Another Junior who has been pivotal to Queens success is guard Taliyah Hopkins. Coming off a 22 point explosion in the win over Franklin Pierce last week, Hopkins provides a scoring threat from the perimeter, as well as driving to the rim. Her size creates mismatches on the floor, as teams are forced to defend a 5’11 guard who can beat you inside and out.
Playing at the high post and in the paint, Senior forward Marina Ramon Lopez has been a consistent leader for queens. Lopez has put up five points and five rebounds a game so far this season, and has helped create good high low movement in the interior. Sophomore forward Celeste Moran has done a great job relieving that duty as well, coming off the bench with second chance points, and has been a threat from the short corner. When guards Rowland, Bonin and Mahon drive to the basket, defenses are forced to make a decision on whether to fully contest, or to play back on Moran and Lopez.
With a number of positive aspects in play for the Knights, what may be most important is contributions from Freshmen this season. Coach Naumovski has needed an impact from guard Lucy Tougas. Tougas has been great coming off the bench, relieving the starters while handling big minutes. Tougas is a pass first guard who can shoot and drive, but fits perfectly into the knights offense with her court awareness and basketball IQ. Junior Emer Maloney also has this trait on the offensive side of the ball, as both guards pass up numerous good shots, in order to find their teammates for a great shot. This is a characteristic that you just cant teach.
With conference play starting in a week, the Lady Knights will still have some hurdles ahead. Production on offense, as well as getting consistent stops will always be areas that could improve. More importantly, the learning curve for this years team has come quick, and strides are being made for the Knights to compete for an ECC championship again in March.