Women’s basketball falls in Atlantic 10 semifinals
After a convincing 66-48 win over cross-town rival La Salle University in the quarter finals of the Atlantic 10 tournament, the Saint Joseph’s University women’s basketball team saw their season come to an end at the hand of Duquesne University, who beat the Hawks 78-63 on March 4.
However, it was difficult for Head Coach Cindy Griffin to be upset following the loss after the successful season her team had.
“I thought we had a good run in this tournament,” Griffin noted during a press conference after the loss. “For a team that was picked [to finish] eighth [in the preseason] to finish as the third seed, and to be able to play in a semi-final was a great thing for this team.”
The Hawks opened the A-10 tournament at home on Feb. 25 when they played and beat Rhode Island University by a margin of 26 in a 77-51 victory.
The greater challenge was presented in the tournament’s semi-final on March 3 in Richmond, Va. when the squad played Big 5 competitor, the La Salle Explorers.
The Explorers proved themselves as notable contenders early on, leading 14-10 with two minutes left in the first quarter. A layup and a pair of free throws by junior Chelsea Woods tied the game at 14-14, sparking momentum on the St. Joe’s side.
The second quarter put the Hawks in a 22-14 lead two minutes in. As La Salle started to close in, St. Joe’s sophomore Alyssa Monaghan had her first 3-pointer of the game to increase their lead, 25-16.
La Salle continued to put on the pressure until Woods and Monaghan each responded with two free throws to put them up 29-22 at the half.
The Explorers got the scoring started in the third quarter, but it wasn’t long until sophomore Sarah Veilleux drained a 3-pointer to increase the point margin to five.
The Hawks had a good run halfway through the third quarter when Woods made two foul shots, sophomore Kristalyn Baisden had a jumper, and junior Adashia Franklyn contributed a layup to put St. Joe’s ahead 36-29. The third quarter ended with the Hawks up by 10 at 44-34.
Hawk scoring began with a layup by senior Amanda Fioravanti, followed by layups from Veilleux and Woods to give St. Joe’s a 14-point advantage. The rest of the game saw appearances from the Hawk bench, and St. Joe’s went on to win it 66-48.
Woods saw the game as a success for her team, in which they played tenacious defense against a strong team.
“We were able to get stops when we needed stops,” Woods said. “No second shots.”
Woods led Hawk scoring with 21 points, aided by Veilleux’s 12 points and Fioravanti’s 10 points.
The win made Griffin reflect on the team’s progress throughout the season.
“You have to look at the character of our team,” Griffin said. “They stayed with it even after losing five in a row during that stretch, and it made us go back to basics.”
After a win over a tough opponent, St. Joe’s felt confident going into the semi-final against the Duquesne University Dukes, a team they beat 60-58 in a well-fought match earlier in the season on Feb. 1.
The Hawks found themselves playing from behind early, being down by 14 with two minutes left in the first quarter. Franklyn brought the game within 12 at the end of the half with a pair of free throws.
In the second quarter, St. Joe’s continued to cut the margin, coming within 8 points after two Fioravanti layups. From here, scoring went back and forth until Fioravanti and Woods each contributed two free throws to cut the lead to five, making it a 30-25 game. The Dukes came back, and the second half ended with a Duquesne lead, 38-29.
Howeverm, the second half brought better fortune for St. Joe’s.
“We had to come out with energy in the second half,” Monaghan remarked. “And we did.”
Their drive jumpstarted six minutes into the third quarter when Monaghan converted an and-one, Baisden had a layup, and Woods scored a jumper to cut the lead to just one point.
Baisden gave the Hawks their first lead of the game, draining two foul shots to bring the Hawks up 44-43. Duquesne responded quickly, taking the lead back with two foul shots of their own to put them up 45-44 at the end of the third.
The last quarter of the game proved to be the final quarter of the Hawk’s tournament as well. St. Joe’s fell into a 10-point deficit with four minutes left to play, and while they continued to fight, it proved to be less than enough as the Hawks fell 78-63.
Woods led scoring in the semi-final with 17 points, followed closely by Monaghan and Fioravanti, each with 16.
Griffin recognized the impact that Fioravanti had not only in the game, but on the program as a whole.
“She [Fioravanti] played with a sense of urgency that a senior would do around this time,” Griffin said. “We’re definitely going to miss her.”
Regardless of the outcome, Griffin was proud of her team for their performance throughout the A-10 championships, as well as the entire season.
“It was not a lack of effort on our team’s part,” she said of the semi-final. “We outshot them, we just couldn’t make shots. It just wasn’t our day.”
Despite the fact that the Hawks were knocked out of the A-10 tournament, there is still a chance that the women’s basketball team could receive a bid to the NCAA tournament that begins on March 18. The Hawks had an exceptional season with their 17-14 overall record that improved after a rough start to the season.
No matter the outcome, the Hawks had an impressive season, overcoming a plethora of obstacles and shortcomings.
“Hopefully our season isn’t over,” Griffin said.