Hawks fight back from 16 down to defeat UNE in Ryan Weekes’ memorial game, move into first-place in CCC

Roger Williams University women’s basketball senior forward Mariah Nicholas attacks the rim in a game vs. University of New England on Saturday, Jan. 27. The Hawks defeated the Nor’easters 62-54.

Andrew Wuebker, Sports Editor

As fans cladded purple in honor of former Hawk Ryan Weekes on Saturday afternoon, the Roger Williams University women’s basketball team had nothing but earning a victory in her memory in the back of their minds.

A former RWU student-athlete that played four years for the women’s basketball program and a member of the graduating Class of 2012, Weekes passed away in 2015 due to cancer. The women’s basketball team held their annual memorial game on Saturday vs. the University of New England Nor’easters in her honor and for others fallen to cancer.

While Weekes was in the back of the Hawks’ minds, also present in their thoughts was first-place. The winner of RWU’s heavyweight matchup with the Commonwealth Coast Conference leading Nor’easters had significant playoff implications. With a victory, the second-place Hawks would jump UNE for first, putting themselves in control of their own playoff destiny.

For much of this game, it didn’t seem as if it would happen. The first-place Nor’easters gave the Hawks everything they could handle over the course of 40 minutes, using their physical and aggressive defensive style to keep the Hawks off a clear flightpath, building a lead as large as 16 with 3:22 left in the first-half.

But the Hawks’ heart and fight showed through.

Despite shooting 31 percent from the floor and being down double digits, the Hawks climbed out of the 16-point hole to eventually earn a 62-54 victory.

The Hawks previously battled the Nor’easters on Dec. 2, but fell 52-43. Senior forward Mariah Nicholas led the Hawks with 18 points, six rebounds and five blocks, certainly a redemption effort for her after going scoreless with four personal fouls in the first matchup.

Senior and sophomore guards Anna Walther and Gabby Jerahian also contributed, scoring 21 of their combined 27 points in the second-half.

The Nor’easters took control early, leading RWU 18-9 at the end of the first quarter. In the second, things only got worse for the Hawks.

The deficit ballooned to 16 when the Hawks trailed 34-18 with 3:22 left in the second quarter. UNE senior forward Olivia Shaw scored 16 of her 18 points in the first-half en route to a 36-23 halftime lead.

Entering the second-half, the Hawks completely turned the tables. RWU drove to the basket hard and often, getting to the charity stripe 18 times in the second-half and knocking down 15 free throws. RWU had the advantage in free throw attempts going 22-of-26 while UNE went 12-of-21 from the line.

On defense, the Hawks held UNE to 18 percent second-half shooting, outscoring them 39-18 in the final 20 minutes.

The victory was an encouraging one for the Hawks, who not only won their eighth straight game Saturday to improve to 16-3 (10-2 CCC), but remained unbeaten at home where they are 10-0.

The Hawks will face Salve Regina University next at home on Tuesday, Jan. 30.