Deegan edges Jacobs in titanic tussle of WA freshmen

West Australian pairing Suzi-Rose Deegan and Claire Jacobs have been among the top freshmen, if not the top players, in the Atlantic 10 all season, combining for eight Rookie of the Week awards. Fireworks were expected as the pair faced off as Deegan's Davidson side traveled to Philadelphia to face Jacobs and La Salle, and the duo were among a number of Aussies to deliver in an overtime classic.

Deegan had been slowed slightly in recent times after coming back from a brief injury layoff, but quickly put that behind her in combining with fellow Australian, Cassidy Gould in leading Davidson to an early 12-7 lead. However, Jacobs, alongside twin sister Amy, flipped the game on its head as quickly as Davidson had established a lead. The pair tallied a combined 10 first quarter points, almost half of La Salle’s first quarter total as the Explorers put together a 21-14 first quarter advantage.

A comparatively low-scoring second quarter followed, with the teams combining for just 23 points. An early run for the Wildcats, once again fuelled by Deegan and Gould, handed the visitors a slender lead, but that work was undone as Davidson scored just two points in the final six minutes of the term. With La Salle scoring nine points in the same time span, a late lay-up from Jacobs saw the hosts hold a six-point advantage at halftime.

Davidson had demonstrated that they could more than hang with La Salle in the first half, but occasional lapses had hindered their chances of holding onto a lead. Little changed in the third quarter, with Deegan continuing to rack up points and rebounds at a rapid pace to keep the Wildcats score ticking over, only to find La Salle doing the same at the other end. Eight third quarter points from Jacobs paced the Explorers, who led by 11 at one stage but maintained a 9-point advantage heading into the final term with the score reading 49-40.

Mercifully for the Wildcats fans watching back in North Carolina, but brutally for the blue-and-gold clad supporters in the arena, Davidson finally put together a complete-quarter performance in the final term. A 7-0 run cut the margin to two, and although La Salle responded midway through the term to re-establish a two-possession lead, Davidson’s offence owned the quarter and took a 56-55 lead with just a minute remaining in the final term.

Then, with 35 seconds remaining…COUNT THE BASKET! An and-one opportunity for Claire Jacobs after being fouled on a jumper. A clutch free-throw followed, but anyone who was watched the bronze medal playoff at the 2019 Under 20 Australian Junior Championships knows that Suzi-Rose Deegan is just as clutch. The Davidson star responded with a jumper of her own on Davidson’s next possession, and when Jacobs’ last second shot failed to find the bottom of the net, the game headed to overtime.

Jacobs’ 18th points of the game opened the extra period, but that would be La Salle’s last lead of the game as Gould joined Deegan to briefly form the greatest Aussie pairing since white bread and hundreds and thousands came together to create fairy bread. Tom Gola Arena essentially became an Australian exclave for five minutes as the duo tallied 10 of the 15 points scored in overtime, splitting the total straight down the middle at 5-apiece. The score in the final 15 minutes of action read 30-12 in the Wildcats’ favour as the visitors stormed to a 70-61 victory that looked highly unlikely coming into the fourth quarter of regulation.

Deegan already looks good for her seventh Atlantic 10 Rookie of the Week award, tallying an impressive 25 points on 11 of 22 shooting, as well as a career-high 15 rebounds to complete a sixth double-double of the season. Gould’s overtime takeover increased her final tally to a season-high 15 points alongside 5 boards, whilst freshman Adelaide Fuller was solid on the boards to collect 9 rebounds alongside 2 points. Claire Jacobs was far and away La Salle’s top scorer, finishing with 18 points as only one other Explorer finished in double figures. Amy Jacobs chipped in 6 of her own, leaving the combined Australian total of points standing at 64. With Canadian Kate Hill adding 4 for La Salle, this left the Australian quintet outscoring the 11 Americans involved in the game 66-61.

The result leaves Davidson assured of hosting a game in the first round of next week’s Atlantic 10 Tournament. Depending on the results in the final week of the regular season, they could yet face La Salle again, with Davidson currently sixth in the standings and the Explorers sitting in tenth.