"Obviously I'm happy for Jess" stated head coach Shannon Howley. "She's certainly earned this mark after being our go-to scorer for nearly four years. It can be tough to be the feature of every team's scouting report yet still come out and produce like she does night in and night out."
The first few minutes of play saw little scoring as the teams were tied 4-4 with 14:43 left in the first half. From that point on, EC went on a 14-0 run to break open an 18-4 lead and take control of the game. The run was capped off by a three-pointer from Alex Balara, her second consecutive make from downtown.
Elmira would lead by double-digits for all but 14 seconds of the remaining 10:43 in the first half, reaching a maximum of 16 points with over seven minutes on the clock. Alfred began scoring more often, but the Purple and Gold matched them shot-for-shot and took a 38-28 lead into the locker rooms.
The Soaring Eagles maintained their double-digit cushion throughout the second half, growing their lead to 21 points at 66-45 after a layup from Zoltowski with 5:25 to play. Those would be the final two points Zoltowski would score in the game as classmate Breen Loney came in to replace her, allowing Zoltowski to receive the standing ovation she deserved from the fans in attendance. The Purple and Gold cruised over the final five-plus minutes of play to the 72-59 victory.
On top of her game-high 25 points, Zoltowski also came one rebound short of her fourth double-double of the season and also impacted the game on the defensive side of the ball, recording one steal and one block. Her all-around play was emphasized by Coach Howley following the game.
"Jess has evolved into a complete player. She is not only our best scorer, but she is our best rebounder and our best defender. She has worked extremely hard to get to this point in her basketball career and I hope that people can truly appreciate the player that she is."
Not to be completely overshadowed by her teammate's record-setting night, Balara herself had a career night. The junior scored 18 points against the Saxons which eclipsed her previous career-high of 17 points, accomplished twice during the 2011-12 season. Balara also pulled down seven rebounds, the fourth time this season the point guard has recorded at least seven rebounds. Maria Thannhauser was the third EC player in double-figures as she chipped in 14 points and handed out a team-high three assists.
Aside from the milestone set on the court tonight, EC's victory pushes their record to 6-2 in Empire 8 play. The Soaring Eagles currently sit in third place in the conference, two games ahead of Stevens Tech in the loss column. The Purple and Gold have a full slate of difficult competition ahead of them as they have two games against Empire 8 leader Hartwick College, two games against Stevens Tech, and a road game against Ithaca College still remaining on their schedule.
"This win certainly sets us up for this coming weekend" said Coach Howley. "We know we have the top three teams in front of us coming in the next couple weeks and it will be up to us to show that we belong with our play on the court."
The Soaring Eagles will kick-off their final stretch of games this Friday, February 7th when they host Hartwick College. The game is scheduled to tip-off at 8:00 p.m. at Speidel Gymnasium.