Hearts were heavy for Monarch Nation as the Old Dominion Lady Monarchs (17-9, 8-6) took the court against the Northeastern Lady Huskies (13-10, 6-6) on Sunday afternoon. Volunteer women’s basketball coach Sara Jones, 40, died Friday morning after battling cancer for 12 years. The timing of Jones passing put extra awareness on the 11th annual Hoops for the Cure game. The Lady Monarchs fought to hold on to a 70-67 win over the Northeastern Lady Huskies. The lead was never safe for either team as it was a back-and-forth type of day.
Northeastern sympathized but also came to play. The Lady Huskies were led by seniors Jewel Tunstull and Kashaia Cannon’s 20 points. Tunstull also grabbed 12 rebounds in the double-double effort. The Lady Huskies leading scorer Deanna Kerkhof (14.9 ppg) was held to 13 points on 6-11 shooting. Kerkhof missed what would have been the game-tying free throw with eight seconds to go that would have knotted the game up at 68 all. The Lady Huskies second unit was held in check as they only mustered eight points in the contest. The Lady Huskies shot 45 percent from the field and 29 percent from three. At this point, all moral victories are in one ear and out the other for head coach Daynia La-Force and her squad.
The Lady Monarchs came in to the game playing with a chip on their shoulder. Head Coach Karen Barefoot considered Sara Jones a “life coach” and a longtime friend. This game meant everything to Barefoot and she made sure her team came out ready to play. “We wanted to win the battle, you know, emotionally, mentally, and physically, and we tried to keep our emotions calm because we knew this was a huge event and we wanted to play for Sara but we wanted to play for everybody too.” Coach Barefoot said in her opening statement. “This is a huge event it’s our 11th year hosting such an event and I just give so much credit to Deb [Debbie] White and what she’s done…look at the fan support, its amazing.”
The emotional charge of the Lady Monarchs was led by Jackie Cook (21 points, 8 rebounds) and Shae Kelley (19 points, 9 rebounds). Cook has had a “rough” few days since the passing but the team has “stuck together”. Cook labeled the game as one where “emotions were flying” as they were for the many survivors that marched on the floor before tip-off. Coach Barefoot went on to say that she “just tried to keep this team together because I know how much she gave them…if you ever saw Sara on the sidelines she’s the first one off the bench.” Barefoot and the team considered Sara more than just a staff member, she was family. “She’s on the sideline doing all the little things, she loved them, she cared for them, and so for us we just try to keep her in spirit and keep her legacy going so whenever you lose someone in your family it’s always difficult.”
The win for the Lady Monarchs snapped a three game losing streak and added another chapter to what has been a remarkable season for the Lady Monarchs. Shae Kelley knew that a win would speak volumes for her and her teammates. “It’s a boost, it’s definitely a boost, we came off of three losses I think in a row and we were just trying to get back to our old selves and that’s what coach Barefoot told us in the locker room, lets get back to us and that’s kind of what we did, pressure defense and getting after it, the 50/50 balls and just playing emotional like we did,” Kelley said.
Old Dominion will look forward on the season as they embark on the final stretch of the season. Sara Jones’ memorial service is set for 2 p.m. at the Wave Church at 1000 N. Great Neck Rd. in Virginia Beach. Monarch Nation can rest until Thursday night when the William & Mary Lady tribe come into the Lion’s Den.
By: Mitchell Brown