COLUMBIA — Turnovers and lost momentum cost the Stephens basketball team in a 65-63 loss to Hannibal-LaGrange on Tuesday at Silverthorne Arena.
Despite the loss, senior Cara Leis provided the support for the Stars when needed.
In the beginning of the second half, the Trojans' Kayla Hruby floated through a clear lane for a 2-pointer, trimming the Stars' 33-30 lead. Leis pulled the team together for a quick pep talk, and smiles appeared on her teammates faces. Then sophomore Danielle Caldwell was fouled, and Leis offered a quick high five. Caldwell then made both free throws.
"She’s a vocal leader and leads by example," Stephens coach Bill Bixon said. "She’s not afraid to get in somebody’s face and pump them up or say what needs to be said to the team."
Playing her second full game back from a wrist injury, Leis' positive attitude helped the Stars stay composed. She led Stephens with 16 points and five assists. Megan Sheffield added 14 points and pulled down a game-high nine rebounds.
"When I was on the bench or on the court, I try to motivate everybody and try to keep everybody positive," Leis said.
The Stars ended the first half with a 31-27 lead but were overtaken in the second because of lackluster offense and turnovers.
"Taking care of the ball could have kept the momentum on our side," Leis said. "Sometimes those turnovers start to discourage you."
With about three minutes left in the game, a 7-0 run gave the the Stars a 62-61 lead. Hruby then snagged the lead for the Trojans with a shot under the basket. The Stars were unable to connect on their last three shots.
"It’s unfortunate that we had to play back-to-back nights," Bixon said. "Only having seven players to rotate and with two of them coming back off injuries, it’s hard to match (the Trojans) defensively."
As for Leis, she will continue to play the rest of the regular season still recovering from her injury.
"I think Cara really provides a good spark for us," Bixon said. "She’s definitely our team leader, and she just has the will to win. She just wants to compete every possession, and I think that rubs off on our teammates. I know everybody is happy to see her back out there playing."
Stephens will play next against Park University at 7 p.m. Thursday at Silverthorne Arena.