WEST HARTFORD, Conn. — With 11 minutes and 54 seconds left in Thursday’s America East Tournament preliminary game, the public address announcer at Chase Arena identified Kristin Baker as the shooter after Maine drained a big, 3-point shot.
The shooter wasn’t Baker, however. It was Tanna Ross who canned it — the fourth of six 3-pointers for the junior forward on the night — from the left wing.
The slight didn’t faze Ross in the least. She was too busy hustling back on defense and trying to rally her Black Bears back from an 18-point deficit.
Ross’ sixth ‘3’ with 6:57 to play cut the deficit to eight, but it wouldn’t be enough. The Bears would need to clone at least one more Ross to pull out what would become a season-ending, 65-50 loss to New Hampshire.
The junior guard would finish with 20 points (just two off her career high and 10 better than her previous season high) on 7-for-17 shooting from the field overall, four rebounds, two assists and one steal. She also took a charge in the second half when Maine tried to rally.
“She’s a very good player and when she’s hot, she’s hot,” said UNH coach Kristin Cole. “We went straight five because I don’t think we can guard her in the zone and we’re not comfortable playing man. She had a very good night against us tonight.”
Ross hit six of her first 10 3-point shots and logged a season-high 28 minutes after averaging 14.4 before Thursday. Not bad, considering it was her ninth game back after missing most of the season with a foot injury.
“I was a lot more comfortable today,” Ross said. “Sometimes I force the game, like when I came back and wanted to make an immediate impact.
“I do feel like I’m finally back at 100 percent and slowly I think I’ll work my way back.”
The Newburgh native broke a bone in her left foot early in the preseason in October and missed the team’s first 19 games.
“She was out 3 1/2 months, so I don’t care what kind of conditioning you’re doing on the side, it’s not basketball shape,” said Maine head coach Cindy Blodgett. “So of course she was out of shape.”
Ross may not have been in game shape physically, but emotionally remained a team leader, exhorting her teammates from the bench to do well, congratulating them on big plays, and providing plenty of encouragement.
“It was really tough sitting and watching, but I always hope to make an impact emotionally, anything,” Ross said. “I want the team to know I’m there and feel my energy so it somehow impacts the game.”
Blodgett says Ross has been an invaluable influence on her teammates.
“I think she’s been exceptional. She’s the first person off the bench, chasing down her teammates,” Blodgett explained. “I think that speaks to the character she has as a person.”