EUGENE, Ore. — Despite a 23-turnover game, the 11-8 Bushnell Beacons and their fourth-ranked defense in the Cascade Collegiate Conference never trailed in their conference matchup with the Multnomah Lions.
On paper, it’s the eighth conference win of the season for the Beacons, who, with their 72-58 win over Multnomah, are fifth in the standings in the conference. But if you ask sixth-year head coach Chad Meadors, it’s much more than that. As soon as Meadors entered the makeshift media room my classmates and I were gathered in, he immediately had a topic in mind: the resiliency of his Beacons.
“We’ve been playing with seven all year,” Meadors said.
Injuries have plagued the Beacons’ roster this season, but on Friday they finally had eight players active. Redshirt freshman Taylor Reed made her Beacons debut, playing nine minutes off the bench and being named player of the game. Reed was kept out of action for the previous season and, up until Friday, all of this season because of a broken foot.
“Let me tell you, she was excited and all over the place,” said Meadors. He was joined by three of his players– graduate student and incumbent CCC Player of the Week Aspen Slifka, junior Libby Mathis, and senior Aly Mirable, the three of whom couldn’t help but laugh at their coach’s comment. “But we’re just excited for her to get the opportunity to play.”
Slifka, Mirabile, and Mathis have played the most minutes a game, in that order, for a depleted Bushnell team– in fact, Slifka’s 35 minutes a game ranks third overall in the CCC.
“I’m not gonna lie, it does affect us,” said Mathis, responding to a question regarding if fatigue was an issue for the team. “But we’re really intentional on how we play basketball. We exert a lot of energy on the defensive end, we get stops, and then we control the tempo on the offensive end.”
The strength of this Beacons team is found in their defense, who on average allow 59.5 points per game. Friday was no different, as the Beacons didn’t allow a point for the first 6 minutes and 37 seconds of game time before the Lions broke an 0-for-10 drought from field goal range. Mathis recorded four blocks on the night and Mirabile led the Beacons in steals in the game with three steals.
Despite the margin of victory for the Beacons, it wasn’t the cleanest game on the opposite side of the floor, turning the ball over 23 times– an uncharacteristic night for a team whose turnover margin is slightly below even at -0.60. It certainly wasn’t what Meadors wanted to see.
“It’s killing our tempo, and to some degree it’s not moving the ball the way it needs to be moved,” Meadors said. “There’s some careless ones in there.”
“I think it was an off night for us,” said Slifka. “I think we were just a little bit off with each other.”
Despite the turnovers, the Beacons had an efficient shooting performance from the floor, finishing the game at a 57.4% field goal percentage. For Slifka, it was another standout performance, as she led the Beacons in points with 26, as well as recording six rebounds and five assists. The weekend prior, Slifka etched her name into the history books, becoming the first Beacon ever to record 1,500 points, 500 rebounds, 200 assists, 200 steals, and 100 blocked shots.
In her fifth and final season as a Beacon, Slifka looks back at her career as a Beacon fondly. “I’ve had Chad all five years,” Slifka said. “I’m thankful because he believed in me right from the start.”
Meadors was more than happy to reciprocate the praise for his player, pointing out that Slifka would likely become the first five-time first team all-conference player in CCC history. “She’s been everything [for us],” said Meadors. “She turned our program around.”