Women’s basketball closes Big 5 play with a win against La Salle
Donning pink uniforms in honor of breast cancer awareness, the Saint Joseph’s University women’s basketball team took on its neighbor, the La Salle University Explorers on Feb. 12. The Hawks earned a 67-58 win over the Explorers to round out Big 5 play, improving the Hawks’ Big 5 record to 2-2.
A number of St. Joe’s players contributed points to the win, with junior Adashia Franklyn leading the pack with 17 points. Sophomore Sarah Veilleux had 16, senior Amanda Fioravanti added 11, and junior Chelsea Woods added 10.
The Hawks were able to hold off La Salle for the majority of the game, as the Explorers’ largest lead was 2 points and they only held the lead for a little over two minutes. St. Joe’s led for over 33 minutes of the game.
Head Coach Cindy Griffin was pleased with the Hawks’ play against their Big 5 rival.
“We knew what was at stake; we were tied with La Salle in the [Atlantic 10] standings and we knew that this was a big one,” Griffin said. “We wanted to finish strong in our run in the Atlantic 10 and I thought our kids came out strong and kept with the game plan. It was nice to see us make shots today.”
The game started out close with the Explorers taking control and the Hawks answering each La Salle basket. Fioravanti registered St. Joe’s first points with two free throws.
The teams were tied for much of the quarter until La Salle took a 13-12 lead with one minute left and Veilleux responded with two 3-pointers within the final minute of the quarter to give the Hawks an 18-15 advantage going into the second quarter.
A pair of Woods foul shots opened the quarter, and from here, the Hawks took flight.
Coming off the bench, sophomore Kristalyn Baisden made her mark immediately with a 3-pointer one minute into the quarter to give the Hawks a 23-15 edge.
St. Joe’s took advantage of their foul shots, with Veilleux and senior Jaryn Garner each making both of their free throws.
With five minutes remaining in the half, Woods brought the Hawks’ lead into double digits with a layup to put them ahead at 31-20. The rest of the half saw a free throw and a layup from Franklyn and a pair of free throws from Veilleux to put the Hawks in a 36-27 lead at halftime.
La Salle began to put up a fight in the second half, controlling play for the first two minutes. St. Joe’s found a breakthrough with a Franklyn layup followed by two foul shots by Fioravanti.
The Hawks found momentum again as Franklyn converted an and-one with seven minutes left in the quarter, and Baisden drained her second 3-pointer of the game to put St. Joe’s up 46-32 halfway through the third quarter.
La Salle’s defense was starting to break down to Hawk pressure, as Veilleux and Woods were awarded two easy layups in an open basket with three minutes remaining in the quarter. St. Joe’s went into the final quarter at a 53-43 advantage.
St. Joe’s opened strong once again as Veilleux made a crucial steal that turned into a basket for Franklyn, and senior Mackenzie Rule delivered a 3-pointer to put them ahead 58-47. The Explorers started to recognize the hole they were in and put pressure on the Hawks for the remainder of the game.
The Hawks were able to fight back and hold onto their lead to win the game, 67-58.
“Resistance – that’s the one thing our team has done a really good job of in this stretch that we put together; if teams push us, we push them back, and I think that’s a sign of maturity, competitive nature, and refusing to lose,” Griffin said.
Following the Hawks’ loss at Fordham, it was important to get a win against La Salle to improve their place in the standings, as they are now ranked fifth in the A-10. The Big 5 rivalry is also a large part of St. Joe’s basketball, especially for Franklyn who grew up in southeastern Pa. and recognizes the history.
“It’s just pride,” Franklyn said. “We play for pride, we play for a better record. We want to improve our Big 5 record and our overall record and we fought hard to chip away.”
Just two games away from playoffs, the Hawks need to prepare for what lies ahead.
“We want to outwork our opponents and be better than the next, so all of those little things we’re supposed to do, they contribute to the larger goal,” Franklyn said. “We play hard, we refuse to lose.”
Women’s basketball has improved immensely since the beginning of their season, really taking off when they entered conference play, the most important part of their season.
“The kids have put a lot of work in and to see the benefits come around this time of year is really rewarding,” Griffin said.
The Hawks will travel to Richmond, Va. to take on Virginia Commonwealth University for their second to last game of the regular season on Feb. 15.