Joyner rises to defensive challenge for Loyola NCAA TOURNAMENT

March 15, 1995|By Gary Lambrecht | Gary Lambrecht,Sun Staff Writer

Camille Joyner, who rarely talks on the court and is just as reserved away from the gym, would never say such a thing.

But Joyner's performance for Loyola's women's basketball team in the recent Metro Atlantic Athletic Conference tournament served as a reminder to the voters who left her off the All-MAAC team, a year after they awarded Joyner with second-team recognition.

At least that's the way Loyola coach Pat Coyle saw it.

"Camille had kind of an up-and-down year, but you can't tell me she's not one of the 10 best players in the league," Coyle said. "She's the best athlete in the league, and she's the best defensive player in the league. Being a senior and knowing what we needed to do to win the tournament, she stepped up. Without Camille, we don't win 20 games and win our league."

The Greyhounds (20-8), who are preparing for their second straight trip to the NCAA tournament -- as a 10th seed in the East region, they face No. 7 Oklahoma in Ruston, La., tomorrow -- are headed there primarily because of senior forward Patty Stoffey, the best player in school history and the top scorer in state history.

Stoffey constantly credits her supporting cast with making her job easier. And the most versatile, unheralded one of that bunch is Joyner, a 5-foot-9 senior forward who came from Largo High School in Prince George's County, endured a 6-21 season with Stoffey as a freshman and has helped the Greyhounds turn their program around under Coyle.

Take Joyner's performance at the MAAC tournament, two weeks ago in Albany, N.Y.

Besides becoming the ninth player in Loyola history to reach the 1,000-point level, Joyner did serious damage at the defensive end. In the 76-54 quarterfinal victory over Siena, she shut down guard Kim Colunio, the team's top scorer, in the second half. She did the same thing against top seed St. Peter's and guard Tonya Gertrude a day later in a 55-52 win. Then, in the championship game, Joyner held Fairfield guard Christine Fryer to 4-for-18 shooting, as the Greyhounds rolled to a 67-51 victory and their second NCAA berth.

"I'm happy to take that responsibility. I like the challenge of shutting down the other team's best player," Joyner said. "I just try to contribute where I can, either scoring, rebounding or playing defense.

"I came here with some offensive talent, but I came from a high school that emphasized defense. I know that defense wins games and championships."

Not that Joyner is helpless with the ball in her hands. Blending a much-improved outside shot, explosive moves to the basket and great leaping ability, she has been the Greyhounds' second-leading scorer for the past two seasons. She averages 11.9 points.

But Joyner's forte is giving Loyola a little bit of everything, particularly in rebounding, where she averages 6.9 and is seventh in Loyola history with 644. She has the court vision to average 2.0 assists and hands quick enough to produce 40 steals, second on the team behind Stoffey.

"When Camille is on, when she's making her shots and playing defense, there's nobody who can beat us," Stoffey said. "Sometimes, I'll be down in the post and I'll see her running around, chasing her girl, playing defense, denying her girl and making a steal. It makes you want to get the next steal."

Stoffey recalls coming to Loyola, when Joyner and she competed for the power forward spot. One of Coyle's first decisions upon arriving a year later was to move Joyner to small forward.

"Thank goodness Camille moved out to the wing," Stoffey said. "She so unselfish and so quiet. It's hard to get emotion from her, but her game has gotten so much better. She's a very special player."

GAME DATA

Game: Loyola (20-8) vs. Oklahoma (21-8).

What: First round, NCAA women's tournament East Regional

Where: Ruston, La.

When: Tomorrow, 7 p.m.

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