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.

Sunday, March 04, 2012

Guru's College Report: Philly Teams Ousted In A-10 Semis

By Mel Greenberg

PHILADELPHIA – Temple had a failure to follow a game plan while St. Joseph’s had a failure to do almost anything.

As a result what St. Bonaventure and Dayton have is a date Monday afternoon at 5 p.m. to battle for the Atlantic 10 Conference championship at St. Joseph’s Hagan Arena and an automatic bid to the NCAA women’s basketball tournament.

Local participation in the title game went out the window Sunday afternoon when top-seeded and 19th-ranked St. Bonaventure dominated the fifth-seeded and host Hawks 78-52 in the first semifinal game to continue the Bonnies’ Star Trek adventure going where no Bonnies team in women’s basketball has gone before.

Several hours later second-seeded Temple’s 14-game win streak died in the closing seconds as third-seeded Dayton emerged with a 66-63 victory.

It’s the third straight year the Flyers (22-6) and Owls (21-9) have met in the semifinals with Temple prevailing in overtime in 2010 and Dayton grabbing victories a year ago in Lowell, Mass., and here on Sunday.

The Flyers were able to harness Temple senior Shey Peddy, the A-10 player and defensive player of the year, who had scored 30 points in Saturday’s win over seventh-seeded Duquesne, limiting her to 10 points.

“I picked the worst day to have the worst game of my life,” Peddy said. “They did a good job containing me, making sure I had no open shots, every time somebody was in my face.”

Though Temple trailed by as many as 10 points at 61-51 with 5 minutes, 26 seconds left in the game, the Owls rallied to within a point at 64-63 with 1 minute, 18 seconds left in regulation.

But with 31 seconds left Peddy drove into a crowd going for the lead and turned the ball over. However, Dayton’s Andrea Hoover, the A-10 rookie of the year, missed a shot that the Owls’ Victoria Macaulay grabbed for a rebound and Temple had another life.

However, Macaulay missed a layup going inside with seven seconds left, Hoover grabbed the rebound and was fouled to get to the line and score the game’s final two points on a pair of free throws.

“Obviously, we still gave ourselves a chance to win at the end, even playing horrible basketball,” Temple coach Tonya Cardoza said.

“It came back to haunt us, not being disciplined today. All five guys weren’t in synch. When they have those kind of shooters on the floor and they were getting wide open threes, a lot of that was contributed to what we were doing on the defensive end – it wasn’t even miscommunication, it was not paying attention to detail.”

Temple won at Dayton 61-57 on Jan. 15 following a home loss to St. Bonaventure – its sole setback in the conference – and the triumph fueled the 14-game win streak the Flyers terminated Sunday.

Neither St. Bonaventure (29-2) nor Dayton has ever won a conference title – the Bonnies’ semifinals appearance was their first while the Flyers advanced a year ago to the championship round for the first time losing to Xavier 67-60. Dayton has been to the semifinals five straight times.

It’s been a magical year for coach Jim Crowley’s group at St. Bonaventure and whatever danger the Hawks (21-10) seemed to pose off their upset of fourth-seeded Richmond in Saturday’s quarterfinals was dispelled toward the end of the first half when the Bonnies built a 33-20 lead at the break.

Coach Cindy Griffin’s senior-dominated group stirred briefly at the outset of the second half to get within seven points before the Bonnies took off and built an overwhelming 29-point lead near the end of the game.

Senior Michelle Baker was the lone St. Joseph’s player in double figures with 22 points while the inside-outside St. Bonaventure attack offered an equal 22 points from perimeter ace Jessica Jenkins while forward Megan Van Tatenhove scored 27 points.

“St. Bonaventure is 29-2 for a reason,” Griffin said afterwards. “Their key players came to play today – Van Tatenhove was terrific and Jenkins did her thing as well.

“For us, we weren’t able to score enough points to sustain that today. I thought Michelle did a great job but other than that we didn’t get enough production to beat a team like Bonnies today.”

St. Bonaventure to date has set program records for wins in a season, finishing first in the A-10, which was the seventh unbeaten run by a conference member, earning a first-ever ranking in the Associated Press women’s poll, and is currently on a team-record 18-game win streak.

No matter what happens in Monday’s championship, the Bonnies are considered a lock for an NCAA berth, at worst with an at-large bid, while Dayton, considered a bubble team, probably improved its stock in advancing to the championship.

“I’m very proud of our team,” Dayton coach Jim Jabir said. “I thought we beat a tough, well-coached Temple team. They’re tremendous and it says a lot about our kids’ heart that we came up with the `W’ today in the fashion that we did. I’m really happy today.

“This is the matchup I was worried about because of their toughness and athleticism. They take on the personality of their head coach. And she’s tough. And she don’t quit. And we knew they were going to come back.”

Temple, which must now wait until ESPN’s NCAA Selection Show eight days away next Monday to learn its fate, had been considered a strong candidate, but not a lock, for an at-large berth and ninth straight appearance in the tournament.

“I feel like what we were able to do the last couple of months deserves consideration,” Cardoza said. “We were playing pretty good basketball and again even though we lost the game today and Dayton’s a pretty good team, we still gave ourselves a chance to win.

“And we didn’t even play well. We didn’t do the things we wanted to do so I think we’re an NCAA team.”

Should Temple get bypassed, the Owls undoubtedly would be invited to the 64-team Women’s National Invitation Tournament (WNIT), where they could make a strong run.

St. Joseph’s is also likely to get a bid along with several other A-10 teams while Villanova, which lost in the second round of the Big East tournament at the XL Center in Hartford, Conn., is also likely to get a bid.

Drexel, technically, could still make a run in next week’s Colonial Athletic Association tournament in Upper Marlboro, Md., where No. 8 Delaware is favored to win the NCAA bid, which the Blue Hens have assurance either way.

But the Dragons also would get a WNIT bid if they fail in the CAA tourney.

After St. Bonaventure’s win, coach Jim Crowley, who is in his 12th season at the school in Olean, N.Y., near Buffalo, revealed that St. Joseph’s was the model he used to try to transform the Bonnies into a winner.

“It’s never fun to beat friends but I felt we did what we needed to do,” Crowley said.

“I was really pleased with the way we defended, especially in the first half. I felt we were able to build a lead which forced them to work really hard to try to come back and they were playing their third game in three days and I thought that fatigue set in, in their effort to come back, and that’s where we were able to finish it off.”

Talking about his two stars in Van Tatenhove and Jenkins, both seniors, Crowley said, “There’s a lot of people who can make shots. There’s not a lot of people who can make big shots and both these kids can make big shots and that’s a special thing to have as a coach.”

Reflecting on the season to date, which would be iced with Monday’s championship, Crowley said, “It’s been an amazing run. It’s great the number of people who came down here and we’re excited.

“There’s a lot of things going on, but when (his players) step between the lines, they just play. Yesterday we just wanted to get to noon (Sunday’s start time). Tomorrow we just want to get to 5 o’clock. We just want to get between the lines and play. If it doesn’t go our way at least we know we do what we do and see where it takes us.”

Crowley also praised the Atlantic 10 setup with the tournament returned to a campus site after being held at neutral location the last two seasons.

“I felt like I was at a gym in Indiana – the way the crowds were going at each other and the energy that was going on – both teams deserved that and I felt they reacted pretty well.”

Dayton and St. Bonaventure both have contingents of fans here who are likely to still make Hagan rock though the St. Joseph’s and Temple have been eliminated.

“It’s been our goal from the start but we had to prove ourselves first,” Jenkins said of playing in the championship.

Temple lost even though the Owls had five players in double figures.

Brittany Lewis, off the bench, scored 19 points and grabbed 13 rebounds, chasing 10 on the offensive boards. Macaulay scored 12, while BJ Williams and Kristen McCarthy scored 11 each besides the 10 from Peddy.

Justine Raterman, who was playing with a knee injury in last year’s finals, had 16 points for Dayton. Cassie Sant had 11 points off the bench while Samantha MacKay scored 10 points.

During St. Bonaventure’s current run Dayton gave the Bonnies one of their tougher challenges, losing at home in 56-55 on Feb.11 in Ohio.

“The last time we played them, I thought we played hard, I thought our defense was good – we couldn’t buy a bucket – even to the very last shot,” Jabir said.

“We got a great shot and it just went in and out so if we shoot the ball a little better I like our chances if we just defend. They played better than they did at our place. I think they’ve picked up their level a notch and we have, too, so it will be an interesting game.”

Jabir said it will be difficult going against Crowley.

“He’s my buddy and I don’t like playing my buddies so that is going to be a tough game. Van Tatenhove is tremendous. You look at her and don’t expect her to do those things so we’re going to have to find a way to slow her down.

“And then Jenkins is the other piece of that puzzle but it’s deceptive because those two kids are the kids you key on but the other kids on the floor have become pretty good scorers,” Jabir continued.

“I just think he’s the best coach in our league and I’m going to have to work my butt off just to keep up with him. But they run great stuff, they’re patient, they force you to make mistakes and they take care of the ball so they’ll use the whole clock until they get the shot they want.

“They have a way of isolating you and working on you one-on-one and we’re going to have to be as disruptive as possible.”

Dayton and Temple each got seven votes from the conference coaches poll in the preseason poll and were named co-favorites to win while St. Bonaventure was picked sixth.

On Monday before the tipoff, an hour earlier former Immaculata star Theresa Grentz, who coached at St. Joseph’s, Rutgers and Illinois, will run a clinic. Check the Atlantic 10 website for details.

The Guru will be at the championship blogging the game later and tweeting during the action at @womhoopsguru.

-- Mel

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