Anyone who has ever attended the annual School Day game at UD Arena remembers to bring ear plugs the next time they come.
The Dayton Flyers women’s basketball team invites kids from around the area to see them play every season, and approximately 7,500 of the 8,811 fans in attendance Friday took a break from 43 local schools to watch the team open the 50th season of Dayton women’s basketball against Colgate University.
The Flyers needed the help. The cheering, screaming and shrieking of those young fans — and the dancing, too, during timeouts — helped them rally in the fourth quarter for a 67-58 victory. Their effort in the final eight minutes as they overcame a 51-48 deficit matched the decibel level.
“They helped some on those free throws and late in the game gave us some energy,” Dayton coach Shauna Green said. “It’s always a fun environment. We’re thankful we have that. I wish we had it a few times a year.”
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The arena gets so noisy, especially when the opponent is shooting free throws, Dayton players communicate with hand signals.
“It’s always fun to play in this game,” senior Lauren Cannatelli said. “We know it’s going to be so loud.”
Cannattelli scored 13 points and grabbed eight rebounds. Syracuse transfer Julia Chandler, making her Dayton debut, scored a team-high 17 points and grabbed eight rebounds.
Jayla Scaife added 12 points. Freshman Kyla Whitehead, making her college debut, scored seven points. Jordan Wilmoth and Shakeela Fowler each scored six.
Dayton trailed 47-43 after three quarters and 51-48 at the 8:37 mark in the fourth quarter. A basket by Scaife at the 8:05 mark and a free throw by Chandler at the 7:25 mark tied the game. Dayton took the lead for good on a jump shot by Chandler with 6:48 to play.
Dayton dominated the rest of the quarter in part because it kept going inside for shots on a day in which it struggled from 3-point range. It made 2 of 19 3-pointers but attempted only two in the fourth, missing both.
“We just went inside,” Green said. “We went inside to Juice (Chandler), and I had to get Jayla going somehow and Jayla got us rolling when we posted her up.”
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Colgate returned five starters but finished 7-23 last season and lost 80-61 at Yale in its opener. The Raiders stayed in the game early by forcing 13 Dayton turnovers in the first half.
“I thought our turnovers in the first half were unacceptable,” Green said. “We had only three in the second half, so that’s big, and then our defense tightened up.”
Colgate made 4 of 15 field goals in the fourth quarter after making 7 of 15 in the third. Tegan Graham led Colgate with 18 points.
Green expects there to be some growing pains for her team. Every play is a learning experience, she said. It faces a big test in its next game, playing at Maryland at 2 p.m. Sunday.
“For me and for them, we’re all trying to find our way,” Green said. “You saw that today. The first quarter, we came out and were great. The fourth quarter, we won that (24-11). The bookends were pretty solid, but the second and third, we’ve got to be consistent.”
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