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Women’s Basketball: LaVere’s turnaround sparks team

Eric Retter | Thursday, February 9, 2006

Irish forward Courtney LaVere couldn’t have picked a better time to get hot than right now.

LaVere, the team’s senior co-captain, has struggled for much of the season – failing to score more than nine points for the first nine games of January. But lately LaVere has begun playing like the post threat the team has needed her to be all season, scoring in double figures in each of the past three games and shooting above .500 from the floor in all three contests.

“I think I just realized I needed to score a lot more if we were going to be successful,” LaVere said. “After the Syracuse game, it gave me a lot more confidence, and so going into each game now, I know that I can score. I’ve been able to get some good moves and put the ball in the basket.”

LaVere scored 14 points on 7-of-10 shooting against the Orange Jan. 31.

That game, along with her performance against Providence – when she scored 18 points and only missed one shot in 10 tries – earned her a spot on the Big East weekly Honor Roll, her first such award of the season.

“It was a huge compliment because I thought this season has been kind of up and down for me,” LaVere said. “To have a good week of basketball and be awarded that was a great honor.”

Her January scoring struggles ended at a time when the Irish were laboring to stay in the top-12 of the Big East – the cut-off for making the league tournament. Notre Dame entered the Syracuse game with a record of 3-5 in conference and tied for 10th in the Big East.

LaVere led the Irish to victories in their next two contests to get back to .500, and she shot 5-of-9 from the floor in Tuesday’s overtime loss to Villanova.

LaVere’s offensive emergence has provided the team with a more complete attack that it’s been looking for all season.

“We’ve been trying to look into the post all season, and I haven’t been doing my job most of the season,” LaVere said. “Now that I am [playing better] I think they are looking a little more [inside to me] because we really need a low post presence if our outside team is going to do well.”

That outside game has relied all season on Megan Duffy, the team’s other co-captain and most recognized player. A preseason All-American, Duffy has drawn the most attention from the media – and from other teams’ defenses.

“Well you know Megan’s a great player, and she deserves all the press,” LaVere said. “In a way, it has taken [pressure] away from me so I can come in and do a lot of stuff without all the pressure on me.”

As a co-captain with Duffy, LaVere understands her responsibilities and feels the two complement each other well on the court.

“I think I’m supposed to provide a steadiness out there, bring a lot of poise,” she said. “Sometimes, if we get down or if the other team makes a run, I think I’m supposed to be the calm presence out there and keep everyone focused. Megan does a good job of leading the guards and I think I’m supposed to be that presence in the post.”

Though LaVere has been a team leader all season and contributed quality minutes to every game, she rarely started until last week. After starting the past three games, her total starts this season have doubled.

“Early on in the season I was supposed to be that spark off the bench, and I think I did that,” she said. “I knew since I was starting I was still supposed to, like I said, provide that spark and be an offensive threat and defensive threat when I go in.”

Despite another strong performance from LaVere, the Irish once again have their backs against the wall after Tuesday’s loss. But the co-captain remains confident the team can still be a threat down the stretch.

“The past couple years we’ve really finished strong, so I’d like to see that happen this year, you know, win the games we’re supposed to win and maybe win the games people don’t think we will,” she said. “I think we need to finish strong so we have a good run going into the Big East Tournament and the NCAA Tournament.”