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Career-high after season-low: Haley Gorecki bounces back Thursday

<p>Haley Gorecki torched Idaho State Thursday.</p>

Haley Gorecki torched Idaho State Thursday.

Great players turn adversity into motivation and with every setback, they learn and come back stronger. 

Haley Gorecki proved that she is a player of that class Thursday night.

After a rough game against Northwestern last Sunday—she finished with only 10 points on a subpar 28.6 field goal percentage—the Blue Devils' leading scorer turned in perhaps the best night of her career against Idaho State. Playing a team-high 36 minutes, the graduate student notched her career-high in scoring with 30 points, helping her team stifle the Bengals.

Gorecki brought her energy to the game from the first second. Her tenacity invigorated the Blue Devils on both ends, as Duke jumped start to a 22-10 lead at the end of the quarter. Following Gorecki’s lead, five different Blue Devils found their shots in the first quarter, while the Bengals only converted four baskets. 

“Honestly, [I am] just playing with my team, getting a feel on offense, seeing what the defense gives you and really pushing the ball in transition,” Gorecki said about Duke’s early offense. “I think we shot opposite a lot, just sharing the ball is fun, so I think we did a really good job of that.”

Gorecki would go on to dish out four assists to get her teammates involved throughout the night, but what really made the night special was her impeccable shooting stroke. When the Bengals picked up their shooting percentage and conjured up some offense to cut into the Blue Devil lead in the second half, it was Gorecki who stepped up every time to respond, either with a cold-blooded perimeter shot or an unstoppable drive that put her on the free-throw line. She posted nine points in the third quarter and followed up with 11 in the last period.

“[Haley made] smart decisions [and she was] very balanced, getting to the free-throw line,” Blue Devil head coach Joanne P. McCallie said. “That’s a sign of a great player. We know Haley’s just a very, very good player, but when you get fouled and you get to the line 15 times, that’s a separator and it’s very important for our team’s [victory].”

Apart from her efficient output on the offensive end, the team captain also took the initiative to lead defensively, contributing two steals and one block. Gorecki’s efforts on defense were contagious, as the entire Duke squad exhibited tremendous hustle, forcing its opponent to commit a total of 19 turnovers. 

Gorecki made probably the most important play of the fourth quarter when she intercepted the ball on the passing lane and finished an easy layup on the other end when there were eight minutes left on the clock. The steal prevented any shift in momentum, effectively ending the last hope of a comeback for Idaho State.

After this game, Gorecki boosted her scoring average to 17.2 points, earning a top-10 spot on the ACC leaderboard. The Blue Devils will need her to continue this firepower if they want to get back to the NCAA tournament this season. 

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