Down by one with 26 seconds to play, Mike Roysland took a timeout.
Roysland could give Minnesota Crookston women’s basketball its second win of the season if he just called the right play. He didn’t overthink it.
Get Abby Guidinger the ball.
“We wanted her to make the touch,” Roysland said. “We wanted her to make the decision.”
Abby Guidinger had already made her decision.
“As soon as I got the ball, I said, ‘It's going in.’ ”
Guidinger posted up on the right wing, fifteen feet from the basket, as her teammates cleared out. All weekend, this had been her comfort zone.
Roysland thought Guidinger was going to kick the ball out to the corner. But Guidinger backed her defender deep into the lane, her mind long since made up, and looked only at the rim. She spun, flicked her left wrist and caught nylon.
“I was confident and believed it,” Guidinger said, “and I made sure that it happened.”
The Golden Eagles forced a stop to close out the 66-65 win over Wayne State, the culmination of a weekend made possible by the 5’10 guard from Waukesha, Wisc. and the two best games of her junior season — a 12-point, 4-rebound, 4-assist outing on Friday and 20 points on 9-of-15 shooting on Saturday.
As time wound down against the Wildcats, UMC needed a woman who could simply get a bucket. That was Guidinger. The day before, the Golden Eagles needed a woman to crack Augustana’s 2-3 zone. That was also Guidinger.
It’s obvious why the Vikings went zone against UMC. The 2-3 setup leaves ample space open on the perimeter, and the more 3-pointers the Golden Eagles took, the better for Augustana — UMC came into the game hitting just 28 percent from deep. For a while it worked as planned, as UMC went just 2-of-19 from outside and went into the final quarter trailing, 47-31.
But unlike the rest of her team, Guidinger was at her best against the zone. The 2-3 leaves plenty of room in the high post, and teams trying to break it down often find the most success by working one of their best playmakers from there. It turned out Guidinger, with her court vision, shooting touch, size and mindset that an assist is as good as a basket of her own, was a natural.
“Getting in the high seam really was the key to breaking down their zone with our ball movement,” Guidinger said Friday. “ … I just really like being in that high seam, having the whole vision of the court, because that just allows you to see all the possibilities that are out there for teammates to make shots and cut into the middle.”
Only aiding matters, the Golden Eagles’ shots started to fall. Guidinger found Mary Burke for two straight jumpers to begin the fourth quarter, then hit two of her own. The 16-point lead was down to 12, and she wasn’t done. Operating from her favored high seam, Guidinger turned and shoveled a pass to Paige Weakley, UMC’s best markswoman, for a trey. After an Augustana score, Guidinger and Weakley connected again on almost the exact same play. Eight-point game.
The Golden Eagles couldn’t come all the way back, but that was no fault of Guidinger, who was directly responsible for their first 16 points of the fourth quarter.
“She's got good court vision and she's got a high IQ,” Roysland said. “We're just counting on her to make good decisions.
Wayne State didn’t run zone on Saturday, but the train had left the station. Zone or not, Guidinger's most comfortable in the midrange, a spot where she can see everything unfold around her, and where her shooting touch is softest.
With every basket, Guidinger’s confidence seemed to grow and grow, and UMC made sure to get her the ball in her spots. She dished to teammates, threaded jumpers and the offense, once again, revolved around her.
“It was confidence, as well as my teammates,” Guidinger said. “Also, I think my defense really stepped up this weekend, and I’m proud of that.”
“Honestly, it was just taking her shots,” said sophomore guard Kylie Post. “She's a really good player all-around. She can shoot, she can drive, she knew what she had and she took it.”
She knew what she had and she took it.
If that doesn’t sum up the mentality of a go-to player, it’s hard to say what does. And more than anything else, it’s perhaps the Golden Eagles’ biggest revelation from the weekend. Just two upperclassmen — Paige Weakley and Guidinger — play major minutes, and no Golden Eagle averaged more than eight points per game coming in. It’s hard to create offense without having one player who consistently will do just that.
This weekend, Abby Guidinger decided she’d be that player.
Then she decided she'd win her team a game.
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