When the first half ended at Silverthorne Arena on Tuesday night, Stephens head coach Dane Pavlovich said he felt like the sky had fallen on the Stars. The St. Mary Spires had a 16-point lead over Stephens at the half that proved too large a deficit for the Stars to overcome.
St. Mary defeated Stephens with 52-47, improving its record to 5-2 while Stephens' record sank to 4-2. In the four meetings between the two teams, the Stars' have never won.
St. Mary's attacked Stephens with full force starting at the first whistle, shooting 75 percent from the field and scoring nineteen unanswered points in the first.
"We got caught up in how aggressive they were," Pavlovich said. "You just don't recover from that kind of first half."
But Stephens started strong in the second half with the help of six-foot-two-inch freshman Megan Sheffield. Sheffield tied senior Kerri Shanks with 14 points to lead the Stars' offense. But it was her height that enabled her to nab nine rebounds, giving Stephens the edge it needed to stay in the game.
"I feel like I have a lot of pressure on my shoulders," Sheffield said after the game. "It gets me really nervous in games."
If she was nervous on the free-throw line with three minutes left on the clock, Sheffield didn't show it. She hit the free throw in a three-point play to narrow St. Mary's lead to seven.
But Stephens' guards failed to convert crucial shots in the remaining minutes, forcing the Stars to foul, which allowed the Spires to secure the win at the free-throw line.
Stephens returns to Silverthorne Arena on Friday to face Manhattan Christian at 7:00 p.m.