MONMOUTH — One good shot is all it takes.
If that first offering from long distance ends in a swish, there’s a pretty good chance that it’s going to be a good night as far as Sierra Spencer is concerned.
“Usually when I shoot the first shot and make it, I’m on,” the senior forward said. “That’s always good.”
Spencer hit her shot Tuesday and added a couple more in the first quarter as Monmouth got the jump on St. Dom’s. The Mustangs never looked back against the short-handed Saints in a 70-42 win.
Spencer had a trio of 3s in the first quarter as Monmouth (10-3) built a 19-3 lead. She finished with 18 while Kylie Kemp added 17 in the Mustangs’ third straight win. Monmouth got points from 12 different players.
“That’s been the nice thing the last couple games,” Monmouth coach Scott Wing said. “Sierra has started to hit the outside shot, and it has taken away that packed in zone. “
The Saints (6-7) were without starters Callie Greco and Faith Grady. With a roster of just 10 and only one player coming into the year with significant varsity experience, St. Dom’s was young and inexperienced as it is. Take away Greco and Grady, and the Saints have struggled, losing five straight.
“That’s the fifth game in a row we’ve had to deal with this,” said St. Dom’s coach Jon Berry, who hopes to have Grady back by the end of the week and is hoping for Greco’s return relatively soon. “We need to use this as a positive. What I’m hoping to do in the time we don’t have those girls is develop a little deeper bench. Even when were were healthy, we were only going five or six deep.”
Kelly Pomerleau led the Saints with 26 points. Alexis Dwinell added 12.
“The key was Pomerleau,” Spencer said. “We knew she was a great athlete. So we were going to face-guard her the whole game. We knew she was good. She still hurt us a little, but we executed on offense.”
The Saints managed just three free throws in the first quarter and had six turnovers. St. Dom’s turned the ball over 10 times in the second quarter and shot just 3-for-13. The Saints didn’t get a field goal until a Pomerleau 3 with 6:00 left in the half.
“We wanted to come out with a ton of defensive intensity,” said Wing. “We wanted to keep the ball out of Pomerleau’s hands. She’s a player. What we wanted to do was encourage her to pass it to other people and then try to pressure them. The more times they had to pass the ball, the better off we were going to be.”
With the steady dose of defense in the first and some consistent offense, the Mustangs were able to open the lead. Spencer’s first 3 made it 7-0. After the Saints got their first point of the game on a Pomerleau free throw, Spencer hit back-to-back 3’s to make it 13-1. Then Kemp followed with a three-point play. Paxton Lessard added a 3 to end the quarter for a 19-3 lead.
“We knew they were going to play zone,” said Spencer. “We wanted to keep the high post open. If they guarded the high post, I’d be able to shoot from the outside.”
Though the Saints got the Pomerleau 3 in the second quarter, Monmouth still used an 8-3 run to make it 27-6. Sidney Wilson had a pair of baskets to lead the Mustangs, who led 32-12 at the half.
Pomerleau had just six points at the half but found more space to operate in the second half. Still, Kemp had nine in the third to help the Mustangs preserve the lead. Then in the fourth, Spencer hit another three and had seven points in the quarter while Krystin Kemp added four.
After battling through a hectic schedule with their own batch of bumps and bruises, the Mustangs are healthy again and gaining some momentum.
“Monday’s practice was the best practice we’ve had all year,” Wing said. “They just seemed to have a bounce back in their step.”
While the Mustangs are third in the Western C standings, the Saints are holding their playoff spot in eighth, despite the injuries. Berry said he liked how his team progressed in the loss Tuesday.
“As long as we’re getting better and working hard, I’m very happy,” Berry said. “It’s a trial by fire. We’re looking for little fundamental wins through the game. That’s what we have to do. Then when the other girls come back, we’ll be better.”