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, February 12, 2017

Saint Joseph's Completes Sweep of La Salle to Hold Fourth in A-10

By Mel Greenberg @womhoopsguru

PHILADELPHIA – Down the road in the months of January and February can seem like a far away place when the New Year portion of a season’s schedule is about to arrive and you’re scuffling along with a 3-11 record and an 0-2 start in conference competition.

Yet here it is in mid-February, a few weeks short of March Madness, and the Saint Joseph’s women’s basketball team has found a way to be within reach of redemption.

Since the lowest point when those aforementioned numbers were reached, the Hawks have gone 9-2, all in the Atlantic 10, and one of those two setbacks was in overtime at front-running Dayton.

“Even in that tough stretch in the beginning with the non conference schedule, the whole non conference schedule if you will, we kept saying, `We’re right there. We’re right there,’” said Saint Joseph’s coach Cindy Griffin Sunday afternoon following the Hawks’ 67-58 home win over La Salle in Hagan Arena.

The triumph  completed a 2-0 sweep of the Explorers in a game counting both in the Big 5 and the Atlantic 10.

“It wasn’t lack of effort. It wasn’t lack of caring or anything like that,” Griffin continued. “These kids are committed to have a winning season, to compete every day, and we just knew, we had a couple of wrinkles here and there, but just stay in the course.

"It's just rewarding for us as coaches to see the wins are rewards for that. Especially for the kids. We've been in this for a long time as coaches and we know there’s going to be certain seasons, but for the kids that put a lot of time and work in, just to see the benefit of it coming around this time of year is really rewarding.”

The Hawks (12-13, 9-4 Atlantic 10, 2-2 Big Five) were able to build on a 36-30 lead early in the third period with a 12-4 run that expanded the differential to 14 points at 48-34 with 4 minutes, 4 seconds left in the period.

Saint Joseph’s was then able to more or less stay in enough control to not allow the Explorers (15-10, 8-5, 1-3) to come within dangerous range with an extended rally.

“It was a typical Big 5 game,” Griffin said. “A lot of floor burns on both ends, a lot of hustle plays by both teams. We knew what was at stake. We were tied with La Salle in the (A-10) standings. We knew this was a big one. We want to finish strong in our run in the Atlantic Ten, and our kids came out strong, kept to the game plan and it was nice to see us make shots today.”

Speaking first on the conference situation, with George Washington’s 52-39  upset at home of first-place Dayton, the Flyers (17-8, 11-2) are still on top, Saint Louis (20-6, 10-3) and GW (17-8, 10-3) are now tied for second, though Saint Louis has the second slot by beating the Colonials, while Saint Joseph’s and Fordham (18-9, 9-4) are tied for fourth.

However, the Hawks hold the fourth slot because after splitting the season series with the Rams, a win over Saint Louis tops Fordham’s best win.

La Salle, as a result of the loss, falls to all alone in sixth.

The top two teams get byes to the quarterfinals in Richmond in the reconfigured conference tournament format but the next six teams get first-round home games the weekend of Feb. 25-26 before the winners move on to Richmond.

The Hawks, who next visit VCU in Richmond Wednesday night, are on the verge of clinching a home game and will be the favorite in their final three games while La Salle’s final three include Saint Louis at home Wednesday night at 7 p.m. in their Tom Gola Arena and Fordham, also home, on Feb. 22.

“A home game would be nice, but right now we’re just going to take it one game at a time,” Griffin said.

Both teams still have a chance to gain WNIT at-large bids, if they finish with records of .500 or better, though obviously, a surprise surge to the conference crown would earn an automatic bid to the NCAA tournament.

“La Salle’s having an incredible year and I’m very happy for (coach) Jeff (Williams),” said Griffin of the Explorers who were picked 12th in the conference coaches preseason poll. The Hawks were picked eighth.

“He’s worked really hard and he’s put a really good team together. Amy Griffin is one of the best players we ever played against.”

The La Salle star, who topped the conference in scoring and is leading again, scored 24 points against the Hawks and grabbed nine rebounds, while also dealing four assists, blocking four shots and swiping a steal.

This past week Griffin was named to the Dawn Staley Guard Award national watch list.

“He’s got pieces and that’s why he’s winning games,” the Saint Joseph’s coach said.

Adreanna Miller had 10 points but Jasmine Alston was somewhat limited, though she still dealt six assists and grabbed six steals.

Adashia Franklyn had 17 points and five rebounds for Saint Joseph’s, while Sarah Veilleux had 16 points off the bench and Chelsea Woods, in a substitute’s role, had 10 points. Amanda Fioravanti scored 11.

“For us it’s just taking one game at a time and staying focused and understanding what our strengths are and what we need to work on, getting after it at practice every day and making sure we can control what we can control, which is our approach and preparation for games,” Griffin said of her team.

The game was also the final City Series matchup in the overall slate in which Temple swept to the title with a 4-0 sweep, Villanova was second at 3-1, Saint Joseph’s, with Sunday’s win, was third at 2-2, La Salle was fourth at 1-3, and Penn was fourth at 0-4, though the Quakers were competitive in three of the games and through late in the third period with Villanova.

Though the local aspect was the lesser in the big picture involving Sunday’s action, it was still enough to provide motivation because of its nature.

“You just want to play for pride,” Franklyn said. “We wanted to improve our Big 5 record. We wanted to improve our overall record. We really fought hard because of that pride.” “We want to outwork our opponents and show we’re better than the next. Just play hard.”