Buena Vista senior Kelli Staley didn't play a minute in her team's Iowa Conference basketball game with Luther Tuesday night, but that doesn't mean she wasn't a factor in its outcome.
Staley, who leads the Iowa Conference in scoring (19.2 ppg.) sprained an ankle Monday in practice, and was on crutches Tuesday night.
An emotional core of the team along with fellow senior Katie Maguire, she cheered from the bench as her teammates won a surprisingly easy 87-73 victory over 23rd-ranked Luther College at Siebens Field House.
Even though BVU is just a few games into the Iowa Conference, it was a crucial win, according to coach Janet Berry. In the Iowa Conference, she said earlier this week, winning at home is a must if teams want to stay in the conference race.
BVU, paced by 11 three-pointers as a team, and by 21 points from pre-season All-American Katie Maguire, did just that. They improved to 3-1 in IIAC action and to 8-5 overall.
Luther, a pre-season favorite by many IIAC coaches to win the league title, fell to 2-2 and 9-3.
Berry admitted it was an emotional win for her and for her team.
"I was a little choked up after the game," Berry said Wednesday. "Luther is a very talented basketball team, and we knew we had to step it up as a team with Kelli on the bench.
"This was a total team effort, where every one of our players picked up the slack," she added.
Luther came into the game leading the conference in scoring margin, but the Beavers hit 27 field goals in 60 attempts, including 11 of 20 three-point shooting.
But, Berry added, defense was a key.
"We just never let them get into a rhythm, never let them get on a roll," Berry said.
A post-oriented team, Luther couldn't get many easy inside shots, and when they did, there was a BVU player with a hand in the shooter's face.
Besides Maguire, three other BVU players were in double figures. Senior forward Jess Griggs added 19 points, hitting three of five three-point shots and six of ten from two-point range.
Guard Tracy Hartwig also hit three three-pointers and finished with 14 points. Freshman Katie Ebel pitched in with 10 key points.
Both teams went to the free throw line often - 47 fouls were called - but both teams fared well at the line. BVU made 22 of 29 free throws and Luther was 26 of 31.
Luther was 23 of 59 from the floor but just one of eight in three-point shots.
Luther did, however, get off to a fast start, scoring the game's first five points. BVU stormed back with 10-2 run for a 10-7 advantage four minutes into the game.
With the game tied at 13 with 14:18 left in the first half, BVU went on a 20-6 run for a 34-19 lead with seven minutes left.
The Beavers led 44-31 at the half, but the closest Luther got was within nine points.
"We executed our game plan just the way we wanted to," Berry said. The game plan, she added, was simply to have every member of the team up its level of play a notch.
Luther was led by senior post player Anne Straate, who scored a game-high 23 points. Rachel Jensen added 15 and Christina Gaard 11.
BVU travels to Waverly next Tuesday for a matchup with Wartburg.
The Knights, 2-2 in IIAC action and 5-7 overall, have been streaky this season. Berry added that they've won their last two games, but had lost four in a row previous to that.
"It's a big rivalry for both teams and Wartburg is always a tough place to play," she added.