Womhoops Guru

Mel Greenberg covered college and professional women’s basketball for the Philadelphia Inquirer, where he worked for 40 plus years. Greenberg pioneered national coverage of the game, including the original Top 25 women's college poll. His knowledge has earned him nicknames such as "The Guru" and "The Godfather," as well as induction into the Women's Basketball Hall of Fame in 2007.

Friday, February 16, 2007

Senior Nights Arrive Early This Year

By Mel Greenberg

PHILADELPHIA _ It’s only just over the middle of February, but quirks of scheduling are already producing senior nights and final home games.

Such was the occurrence Thursday night when Temple honored Kamesha Hairston and Fatima Maddox before the Owls beat Saint Louis, 74-64, in an Atlantic Ten game at the Liacouras Center.

Meanwhile on Hawk Hill, St. Joseph’s said farewell to seniors Ayahna Cornish, Whitney Ffrench, Erica Pollock and Zoya Pavlovskaya, who combined for 56 points and 21 rebounds to lead coach Cindy Griffin’s squad to a 76-67 victory over St. Bonaventure in an Atlantic Ten contest at Alumni Memorial Fieldhouse.

In past years, the tributes at the A-10 schools, along with La Salle, would be quasi-symbolic because the conference tournament was held locally at either St. Joseph’s or Temple.

This season, the Atlantic Ten fight for the automatic bid to the NCAA tournament will be held in Cincinnati at Xavier University.

Temple kept pace with No. 8 George Washington with perfect conference records. The Colonials slipped past Charlotte, 64-59, in North Carolina. The Owls will travel to Charlotte, Sunday, for a game to air on CSTV.

If coach Dawn Staley’s team survives, it could be that the regular season A-10 title won’t be decided until the final day of the regular season when Temple visits George Washington at the Smith Center.

We were at the Temple game, of which details are in the print version also on Philly.com.

But space limitations caused quotes from the Owl seniors to hit the cutting room floor.

Maddox has played nearly two seasons for Temple after transferring from New Mexico.

“I feel everyone has embraced me here,” she said. “Even though it was a short time, I enjoyed all of it.”

Maddox’s game has been at its best during the close of her college career.

“Fatima has been playing solid basketball,” Staley said. “I’ve been on her for about a month just trying to get her to focus on playing the way she was capable — scoring when she has the opportunity, running our team, defending, she’s doing all of those things for us right now.”

Hairston said she felt a little emotional before the game. The native of Toledeo, Ohio, also spoke of being able to talk Staley out of removing her when she picked up her fourth foul early in the second half.

“I guess I’ve earned her trust,” Hairston said.

With the game under control, Staley — with an eye to postseason play — also thought it was worth keeping Hairston in the lineup.

In recent weeks, Hairston has been mentioned as a potential late first-round pick in the WNBA draft.

“When you look at the talent that’s in this class, I think Kamesha’s right there,” Staley said. “Her stats are proven against our conference and some of the tougher nonconference teams that we’ve played. She’s ready for the WNBA; she just lacks the experience on a nightly basis. But she’ll get that.”

Back at St. Joseph’s, individually, Cornish led all scorers with a career-high 29 points and five rebounds, while Pollock posted a double-double of 15 points and 11 rebounds. Ffrench added 12 points and two assists in her final game at Hawk Hill.

It’s possible that if St. Joseph’s doesn’t get to the NCAA tournament, the Hawks might host a game, as they have in the past, at Alumni Memorial Fieldhouse in the Women’s National Invitational Tournament.

Future Senior Salutes

Because we won’t be able to get to all the senior days and nights, here are a few local farewell performances still ahead.

Jenna Graber and Crista Ricketts will make their final Tom Gola Arena appearance for La Salle on Feb. 25 when the Explorers host Saint Louis on the last day of the regular season.

Jackie Adamshick and Clarisse Garcia will make their Pavilion farewell appearance on Feb. 26 on the last day of Villanova’s regular season when the Wildcats host Providence in a Big East game.

Penn’s Joey Rhoads, Ashley Gray, Monica Naltner, and Lauren Pears will make their Palestra farewell appearance on Feb. 24 when Dartmouth visits in an Ivy game. They will have one last area appearance, however, when Penn visits Princeton on March 6.

Delaware’s Tyresa Smith, Chrissy Fisher, and Alena Koshansky will be honored on Feb. 25 when Drexel visits in a Colonial Athletic Association contest on Feb. 25.

However, the Blue Hens trio will get some bonus days in the Bob Carpenter Center because Drexel will be hosting the CAA women’s tournament.

That will also allow Kira Karlstrom one extra appearance for Drexel after the Dragons honor their lone senior on March 1 when George Mason visits the Daskalalis Athletic Center.

Up North, Rutgers, which will visit Villanova, Saturday night, will not have a senior night because no seniors exist this season on the Scarlet Knights’ roster, if we read that correctly.

Finally, at Penn State, Charity Renfro and Unionville High’s Amanda Brown say goodbye to the Bryce Jordan Center on Feb. 25 when Indiana visits on the final day of the Big Ten Conference regular season.

Villanova Homecoming

Not to sound like a former society column writer of years ago at The Inquirer, but we will be on the Main Line Friday night at Villanova when a reception will be held – there will also be ceremonies Saturday night at the Rutgers game – to note the 25th anniversary of the Wildcats women’s team that reached the AIAW Final Four here at the Palestra.

Rutgers ultimately won the tournament, the last held in 1982 which was also the start of the NCAA tournament, and Villanova finished third.

Among the former players who will be at the reception is Stephanie Gaitley, the current coach of Long Island U, who has the Blackbirds currently in first place in a record-setting year in the Northeast Conference.

We’ll be back with a special report in this space late Friday night.

-- Mel


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