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.

Wednesday, November 30, 2011

Guru's Local College Report: St. Joseph's Stops Drexel Hex On Hawks

By Mel Greenberg

PHILADELPHIA – St. Joseph’s seniors rode the passion of their last opportunity to beat nearby rival Drexel 59-50 Tuesday night in a nonconference game at home in Hagan Arena that end three years of futility at the hands of the Dragons.

This particular game between the host Hawks of the Atlantic 10 and Drexel of the Colonial Athletic Association does not count in the Big Five but local bragging rights still means much.

Seniors Michelle Baker and Katie Kuester, whose father John is an assistant coach with the NBA Los Angeles Lakers, each scored 15 points for the Hawks (4-3) while seniors Samira van Grinsven and Kelly Cavallo each grabbed eight rebounds.

When van Grinsven hit a foul shot with 14 minutes, 25 seconds left in the game after missing her first of two attempts at the line, she reached her 999th career point, including two years spent at Casper College out West.

But that was to be the last point of the night for the native of the Netherlands.

“I told the girls going in that it was an emotional game for us,” Kuester said afterwards. “Not winning the past three years eats at me when I play against them in summer league and in pick-up and they always have that on me.

“But to go out with that win, that really means a lot to our team, to our program, and especially our seniors,” she added.

The Hawks never trailed and after an early 2-2 tie they went on to build a 15-point lead that then settled back a little to a 31-20 score by halftime.

Then at the outset they bolted to an 18-point lead and extended the differential to 19, their widest advantage on the night, before Drexel (3-2) made a run in the closing minutes to reduce the Dragons’ deficit below double digits.

St. Joseph’s coach Cindy Griffin said it was the team’s best effort of the season as the Hawks continued to build on a continuous fight to avoid total embarrassment at a recent 94-71 loss at then-No. 9 Maryland in College Park at the Comcast Center.

“Playing a team of that caliber, we were in a situation where we weren’t playing our best basketball going into that game,” Griffin explained. “The score might not show the effort, but honestly, we could have lost by 40.

“But we played well, we did a lot things well, and that really helped us in today’s game. You play against Maryland, you’re playing against number nine and if you can hang against that type of team, you can do so damage against some other teams that don’t have that punch.”

Maryland has since moved up to No. 6 in the current poll.

“We executed when we needed to execute,” Griffin said of stopping the Dragons. “We were on defensively. We made the right switches when we needed to switch, we made the right bumps when we needed to bump, we rebounded the ball for the most part pretty well.

“Numbers won’t say that, but the bigger numbers say when they started to make a run, we did a nice job with that,” she continued.

“We rely on our seniors in these kind of games because it’s Philadelphia pride. I think Michelle and Katie did a wonderful job tonight. We went to Michelle to start out each half and she delivered.

“That’s an energy booster for us. She’s been struggling a little bit but she just did a great job for us and gave the rest of the team confidence.”

Drexel came into the contest off a three-game win streak on the road, including Saturday’s 71-50 triumph at the University of Pittsburgh.

But the Dragons didn’t make shots early and the Hawks held Kamile Nacickaite to 12 points, though Hollie Mershon scored 20 and grabbed eight rebounds.

“We missed defensive assignments and then we missed shots,” Drexel coach Denise Dillon said.

“You know coming in here, home court, coming out, they’re an experienced team, veteran players and they’re playing some good basketball in spurts,” Dillon added.

“But they have enough players to have one or two step up and carry them the way and Baker did that at the start,” she said.

“It’s a rivalry, it’s them wanting to go out with a win as seniors, not that our girls didn’t, but just understanding we’re still trying to find our way a little bit.

“And with players like Kuester and Baker, they’re doing a nice job of leading their team.”
Dillon discounted the rally down the stretch.

“We made a little bit of a run but I don’t think anything we did was team oriented,” she said. “We didn’t play as a collective unit and that is what I’m most concerned about because we’re going to be in a position like this a number of times where teams pressure us and give Kamile and Holly a fit and we need the other players to be involved and step up and willing to take the big shots.”

Drexel’s six-game road trip in terms of being away from the Daskalakis Athletic Center continues Sunday with the December opener in the CAA at UNC Wilmington, which is considered to be rebuilding in the second year under former WNBA star Cynthia Cooper-Dyke.

The rest of the CAA schedule resumes in January. Drexel will then travel to surprising Seton Hall Monday before returning home Dec. 19 to host La Salle.

St. Joseph’s is off until next Wednesday when the Hawks travel to Lafayette, a team, which will visit improved Penn in The Palestra tonight (Wed.) at 7 p.m.

West Chester Stays Unbeaten

Coach Deidre Kane’s Golden Rams are still perfect at 4-0 after traveling into Northeast Philadelphia Tuesday night to beat traditional Division II power Holy Family University 84-70 in a nonconference game at the Tigers’ Campus Center.

West Chester, also in Division II, compete in the Pennsylvania State Athletic Conference East Division while Holy Family (3-3), which just dropped out of the national Division II coaches’ poll, is a member of the Central Atlantic Collegiate Conference (CACC).

Golden Rams senior Allison Hostetter collected a game-high 24 points, shooting 12 of 21 from the field, She also had six rebounds and dealt four assists.

Senior Jillian Keefer added 18 points to West Chester’s attack and junior Alex Lennon scored 15 off shooting 7-for-10 from the field.

Holy Family junior Erin Mann, the reigning CACC player of the week, had 23 points and 12 rebounds, while shooting 7-of-15 from the field. Sophomore Maggie Serratelli and junior Ana Cruz each scored nine points.

The Golden Rams had to withstand a rally in the second half in which the Tigers sliced a 14-point deficit down to three to make the score 70-67 with 4 minutes, 32 seconds left in the game.

West Chester then plugged the opposition’s momentum with a 14-3 run to close out the win.

“We went with the five-in and five-out substitution pattern once again,” Kane said. “And I think it really paid off down the stretch.”

West Chester will return home for a pair of PSAC crossover contests against Clarion and Gannon on Saturday and Sunday.

Meanwhile, Holy Family Saturday will open CACC play in Wilmington, Del., at Goldey Beacom College, the team that last season ended the Tigers’ NCAA Division II record 110 home winning streak.

Several weeks later Goldey Beacom beat Holy Family against at Campus Center to win a first-ever CACC title but the Tigers then came back for revenge by ousting the Lightning in the NCAA Division II regional quarterfinals.

-- Mel

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