The Gillette College women blew out of the chute in Thursday night’s home opener against Colorado Northwestern with the same vengeance they used to storm into the national junior college basketball rankings this week.
The No. 11 Pronghorns used a 9-0 start in the beginning of the game and a 15-0 run to open the second half to coast to a 68-43 win over the Spartans.
“The national ranking means everything,” said sophomore Kenosha Wright, who finished with 18 points and 14 rebounds. “We’re putting Gillette on the map.”
The Spartans (4-2) might have wished they’d used a different map. They didn’t score for the first five minutes of the game. Pronghorn freshman Chelsie Pitt knocked down a 3-point field goal to complete a 14-2 run and by that time the Pronghorns (6-0 overall) were playing like the No. 11 team in the country.
Take care of business
“We wanted to set the tone right at the beginning,” Pronghorn coach Will Rider said. “We forced 22 turnovers in the first half, but we had 18 ourselves. It was the first time in front of the home fans, and there’s a little nervousness that goes with that.
“We need to take care of business on a grander scale and take better care of the ball. But we played well in the first five minutes of both halves.”
Wright, who is third in the nation in scoring, scored 14 of her game-high 18 points in the first half. She finished with the double-double and went to work on the glass with five of her 10 defensive rebounds coming in the second half.
Pitt, a 5-foot-10 freshman from Las Vegas, finished with 13 points and Kiela Garner added 12.
“When they announced we are the No. 11 team in the country, for me it was kind of surreal,” said Pitt, who transferred from College of Southern Idaho. “It’s nice and we have worked for it. It’s something that we’re not going to give up easily.
“There’s too much pride on this team not to fight for everything we have.”
Pride and poise
This is the third Region 18 team the Pronghorns have beaten in six games to open the season. Region 18, by tradition, usually has three nationally ranked teams and produced a national champion in 2011.
“I love playing for this team. All I want to do is go out and play hard and what comes, comes,” Pitt said. “On any given day, anyone on this team can have a big game.”
The Pronghorns took a 12-point lead into the locker room at the intermission and blew that up to a 46-19 lead six minutes into the second half.
It was important for a young team with just two sophomores to keep momentum going after such a fast start.
“I’m pretty nervous before every game,” said Garner, a 5-7 freshman point guard that played high school ball at Rich South in Richton Park, Ill. “Coach told us to set the tone of the game and we settled down.
“Being nationally ranked makes us want to play harder so we can earn respect.”
Gillette College opens the Coach USA Classic on Friday at 5:30 p.m. at the CCHS South Campus against Air Force Prep.
Coach USA Classic
Coat collection: The National Society of Leadership and Success will collect coats during the basketball games from 5 to 9 p.m. If you have a clean jacket, in good condition, bring it to the tournament for free admission.
1:30 p.m.: Little Big Horn College vs. Colorado Northwestern
5:30 p.m.: Gillette College vs. Air Force Prep
1:30 p.m.: Colorado Northwestern vs Air Force Prep
5:30 p.m.: Gillette College vs. Little Big Horn College