The Binghamton women’s basketball team blew out Niagara on Saturday, 74-55, extending its strong start to 4-0 while honoring the life of former men’s basketball player Calistus Anyichie, a rising sophomore on the men’s basketball team. Anyichie died in a drowning accident over the summer.
“This team, this Binghamton family, went through a lot,” said BU head coach Bethann Shapiro Ord. “The loss of Calistus was very tragic for all of us to go through. All I think about when I think about Calistus is his smile, his hugs.”
After losing their last six meetings to Niagara (0-4 Metro Atlantic Athletic Conference), the Bearcats were prepared to fight to end the skid, and the team did. Less than a minute into the game, senior guard Kai Moon converted a 3-pointer. From there, the team trailed just once, for fewer than 15 seconds in the first quarter.
Moon was the team’s top scorer for the fourth game in a row, coming away with 25 points. Moon played for almost 37 minutes but had to come out when she was fouled and started bleeding with two and a half minutes to go in the game.
Despite Moon’s absence in the final minutes, the team was well on its way to a win. Eight different Bearcats scored for the team, and 32 of their points were from the bench.
“It doesn’t matter who starts with this team,” Shapiro Ord said.
Not far behind Moon was junior forward Kaylee Wasco, who had a career-high 17 points. Wasco was also perfect from the field, going 8-for-8. Another force for the team was freshman guard Denai Bowman, who had the best performance of her young career, with 13 points, six rebounds and three assists.
“Denai’s shown incredible poise and confidence since she’s gotten here, and I think that showed a lot today — breaking the press, confident enough to take shots, being aggressive, hitting the open person,” Moon said. “Also, what I think a lot of people fail to realize is she’s defending their best player and she held her to about 30-percent shooting, so she really did a lot today.”
Bowman was guarding Niagara senior guard Jai Moore, who was able to secure 13 points and five rebounds for the Purple Eagles. Niagara senior guard Maggie McIntyre also had 13 points and secured six boards.
While Wasco and Bowman both had double-digit nights, this was the first game of the season where senior guard Carly Boland did not hit double digits. Boland, however, had five assists, five rebounds and the Bearcats’ only steal of the day.
After the team’s win, both of the basketball teams honored Anyichie’s life with a tribute video and a bagpipe procession. Several other teams came out for the tribute to support the basketball programs, and many athletes were in tears.
“The boys’ team is like my sons and that’s how Coach [Tommy] Dempsey cares about my girls,” Shapiro Ord said. “It’s such a hard thing to go through as a parent, as a family, to lose one of your own, but I know he’s looking down on us, this program and his teammates, and there’s a big smile up there.”
Despite losing one of their own, the teams are prepared to fight this season. And that’s exactly what the women’s team is doing, as the Bearcats are off to their third-best start in the 47-year history of the program.
“It was a really difficult time,” Shapiro Ord said. “But I think it really pulled us together.”
The Bearcats will continue their season with a road game against Delaware State University. Tipoff is set for 7 p.m. on Thursday, Nov. 21 from Memorial Hall in Dover, Delaware.