Wright State women fall short in opener after late comeback

Credit: Joe Craven

Credit: Joe Craven

Merriweather thankful team is playing again after two COVID cancellations

The Wright State women’s basketball team returned to practice Sunday nine days after announcing the cancellation of the first two games of the season because of COVID-19 issues. They practiced three times before opening the season Wednesday against Bradley.

The result, a 66-61 loss at the Nutter Center, wasn’t as important as the fact that the game took place at all.

“We’re so thankful to be playing,” Wright State coach Katrina Merriweather said. “The energy at the shootaround was unbelievable. We keep talking about being appreciative and thankful for the opportunity. We know there are some teams that still haven’t played.”

The game took place one week after Wright State was originally scheduled to start the season. It had to cancel a home game against Toledo and a road game against Butler because some players were quarantining because of positive COVID-19 tests while others were quarantining because of close contact with those who tested positive. Injuries also prevented Wright State from having enough players to compete in the first two games.

Explore» ARCHDEACON: Ryan Custer featured in new documentary

One player, sophomore guard Jada Roberson, was still in quarantine Wednesday, Merriweather said, because Wright State was being very cautious with the COVID-19 protocols.

The game against Bradley (2-1) is one of two non-conference games on the schedule. The Raiders will play at No. 24 Michigan (2-0) at 12:30 p.m. Sunday and then will start a 20-game Horizon League schedule with two games at Detroit Mercy on Dec. 12-13.

This was a difficult season-opening matchup for Wright State. Bradley finished 22-7 last season and 13-5 in the Missouri Valley Conference. It was picked to finish second in the conference this season.

“Bradley is a very talented team that had a couple games under its belt,” Merriweather said.

Explore» EARLIER COVERAGE: Merriweather bracing for roller coaster season

Wright State built a 15-6 lead in the first quarter and did not trail until late in the second quarter when Bradley took a 35-30 lead with an 8-0 run.

In the third quarter, the game was tied at six different points, and there were four lead changes. Bradley surged ahead with a 5-2 run in the last two minutes to take a 51-48 lead into the fourth quarter.

Bradley then opened the fourth quarter with a 5-0 run to take a 56-48 lead. The Raiders got no closer than six points until the final minute when they went on a 12-1 run. They trailed 64-61 when Bradley’s Lasha Petree made two free throws to clinch the victory with seven seconds remaining.

Angel Baker led the Raiders with 18 points on 8-of-21 shooting and grabbed 11 rebounds. Freshman Emani Jefferson, making her college debut, scored 13 points. She made 7 of 8 free throws. Redshirt freshman Destyne Jackson, who was also playing in her first game at Wright State, had 11 points.

The game was played without spectators, and it made a difference. Merriweather said the team may not have 10,000 fans but has loyal fans who sit in the same seats every game. The coaches and players missed that as well as the band and cheerleaders and the children who form a tunnel for the players to run through.

“I’d be lying if I said we didn’t miss that and miss the environment and the people who always support us,” Merriweather said. “At the same time, we have to take it for what it is and keep people healthy.”

About the Author