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.

Monday, November 27, 2017

The Guru Report: Saint Joseph’s and La Salle Capture Holiday Tourneys

By Mel Greenberg @womhoopsguru

PHILADELPHIA - Memory Lane was all over Hagan Arena Sunday afternoon - one for a long friendship existing between opposing coaches in the title game of the Hawk Classic and another to look back 12 months and then realize how different things are in the early season for the Saint Joseph’s women’s basketball team.

“This team is very focused, this team is very mature,” said Saint Joseph’s coach Cindy Griffin after her Hawks routed Saint Peter’s 87-58 to win their own tournament and go 5-0 for a total turnaround to date from last season’s 1-4 start that grew much worse until things got righted during the Atlantic 10 Conference portion of the schedule.

“We grew a lot, we learned a lot from last year,” she continued. “We have a lot of the same players back that are contributing in the score sheets. These guys are hungry.

“It’s a long season. We got off to a great start and we want to continue to do that. We want to be ready for whatever storm comes, if it comes at all. But we have to be ready.”

Elsewhere La Salle topped host Lehigh 69-61 up in Bethlehem to take the Christmas City Classic tournament title making it three Big Five teams winning Thanksgiving tourneys with the addition of Villanova, who captured the TD Bank Classic Saturday in Burlington, Vermont.

Delaware in the tournament here recovered from Saturday’s tough loss in double overtime to Saint Peter’s to take third place beating Eastern Illinois, 66-37.

Two other Guru locals played Sunday with Rutgers being edged in the fifth place game of the Gulf Coast Showcase by Washington State 63-60 while Rider narrowly missed beating East Carolina in the third place game of Seton Hall’s tournament, losing 66-63  and remained winless at 0-6.

In the title game of the Gulf States Showcase Tourney, the national upset of the day occurred in a game between two other Philly-bred coaches, both Hall of Famers, as No. 6 Notre Dame under Muffet McGraw, a Saint Joseph’s grad, rallied to beat No. 3 South Carolina, the defending NCAA champions under Dawn Staley.

Detailed coverage of that game is in the lead of the weekly Siroky SEC Report, just under this post. And below that is the second posting of the new local D2/D3 Philly Notebook covering area small college teams.

Meanwhile, here Saint Joseph’s saw a balanced attack with all five starters scoring in double figures.

“The balance is key this year. We’re doing a great job finding each other,” said Sarah Veilleux, who had 16 points and six rebounds. She is from Hebron, Conn., just minutes away from the home of the powerful University of Connecticut women’s team.

“A lot is due we’ve been playing together for a while,” Veilleux noted. We figured it out toward the last season and have done a nice job carrying it forward this year.”

The Hawks are off to their best start since going 7-0 at the front end of the 2005-06 season.

Saint Joseph’s first three games were on the road before coming home to Hagan for games Saturday, when the Hawks dominated Eastern Illinois, and Sunday leading wire-to-wire against the Peacocks (3-3).

Besides MVP honors to Veillux, Chelsea Woods, who had 12 points and eight rebounds, and Adashia Franklyn, who had 10 points and five rebounds, joined their teammate on the all-tournament team.

Alyssa Monaghan had a game-high 18 points and Amanda Fioravanti had 10 points and eight rebounds to complete the major contributors against Saint Peter’s (3-3), which got  13 points from Alyssa Velles, who also made the all-tourney team as did Delaware’s Nicole Enabosi and Eastern Illinois’ Grace Lennox.

Coming off the Hawks bench, Avery Marz, who suffered a stroke several years ago and was sixdelined until this season, scored eight points in eight minutes, including a three-pointer.

“AS for becoming productive for us, she certainly is, she certainly is,” said Griffin showing pride in the courage Marz has shown to  fight her way back to active status.

The Hawks now head for a prime test Wednesday night across town at Temple at 7 p.m. in McGonigle Hall to open Big Five play against the Owls (4-2), who already have a City Series win in place after beating La Salle Wednesday last week.

A year ago Temple powered its way here at Hagan in what was also the season opener for both teams with the City Series meeting. The Owls went on to win the Big Five with a 4-0 sweep and land a berth in the NCAA tournament field.

“Temple’s a very good team,” Griffin said. “We need to absorb this one tonight and then get ready for Temple tomorrow and Tuesday. They’ve really competed over the last couple of games they’ve played.

“They have a lot of talent there, different kids are stepping up even though (Alliya) Butts is out (knee injury) and its going to be a great matchup for us.”

The game against Saint Peter’s also for the first time brought Griffin against one of her coaching mentors, Pat Coyle, the former Rutgers star who Griffin served as an assistant at the start of the last decade at Loyola, Md.

“We talked before the game about the great times we had working together,” Griffin said, adding, “ and she said we have a great team, which I think so, also.”

In the third place game, Delaware (3-3) got a rounded effort after successive tough losses in overtime at home last Sunday to Boston U. and in double overtime Saturday here to Saint Peter’s.

Nicole Enabosi had 21 points and 12 rebounds, while Bailey Kargo had 13 points and Rebecca Lawrence and Lizzie Oleary (Abington High) each scored eight against the Panthers (1-4), who had 16 points from Lennox.

“We really challenged the team to play Delaware basketball with every possession and I’m proud how they responded,” said new Blue Hens coach Natasha Adair, formerly with Georgetown. “So many people stepped up today and I’m proud of how we came out.”

Delaware stays on the road the rest of the week, traveling to St. Bonaventure, Wednesday, and to Princeton Saturday to resume an ongoing non-conference rivalry with the Ivy powerhouse in the Tigers’ Jadwin Gym.

La Salle Short-Circuits Lehigh Rally

The Explorers (3-3) withstood a fourth quarter 21-4 rally from the host Mountain Hawks (4-3) of the Patriot League to even their record after Lehigh had moved within four points in the last minute of play.

La Salle used tremendous board work with a 42-25 advantage to make it the first time this season Lehigh didn’t dominate the boards.

The Explorers also survived committing 24 turnovers, of which 12 occurred in the final period. Lehigh claimed a 25-17 edge in transition in scoring while committing just 13 miscues by comparison.

“This is the kind of game where you will reveal your toughness,” Lehigh coach Sue Troyan said. “I didn’t think we shot the ball particularly well today, but I thought we really competed hard and fought our way back to make it a competitive game and give ourselves a chance.”

The Explorers had stormed their way to a 16-point lead at the end of the third quarter.

Amy Griffin, La Salle’s top offensive threat who was the Atlantic 10 leading scorer last season, had 24 points and was named the tournament mvp. 

The Explorers’ Shaquana Edwards, who had nine points and seven rebounds, and Lehigh’s Camryn Burr, who had 10 points, also made the all-tournament team.

Sofilia Ngwafang had 13 points for La Salle and Shalina Miller had 10 points and nine rebounds.

Quinci Mann had 17 points for Lehigh and Hannah Hedstrom scored 13.

 La Salle next hosts Penn Wednesday at 7 p.m. at Tom Gola Arena, already down 0-1 following last week’s loss at home to Temple in Big Five competition. It will be the Quakers’ opener in City Series play.

Rutgers Overcome by Washington State Rally

Just when the Scarlet Knights (5-2) seemed to be able to continue a strong start that included a narrow loss to NCAA defending champion South Carolina on Saturday in the Gulf Coast Showcase, they were overcome by the Cougars of the PAC-12.

Ciani Cryor went for the tie shooting a three-pointer in the closing seconds but did not connect.

Tyler Scaife had 12 points for Rutgers, Stasha Carey had 10 points and eight rebounds, and Caitlin Jenkins had 10 points and 13 rebounds.

Rutgers squandered a 14-point lead in the loss.

Borislava Hristova had 17 points for the Cougars (3-4), while Alexys Swedlund had 14 points off the bench, Louise Brown scored 13, and Pinelopi Pavlopoulou had 11 points and six assists.

Washington State outscored the Scarlet Knights 23-10 in the third period.

Rutgers, who next opens an eight game homestand, playing N.C., State at 6 p.m. Thursday as part of the Big Ten/ACC challenge series of games between members of both Power Five conferences, had numerous chances in the last minute to win Sunday.

Scaife committed an offensive foul and after Hristova connected with two foul shots for the three-point lead, Cryor’s attempt to tie the game and force overtime with a triplet fell short.

Rider Edged by East Carolina

It’s not known if the Broncs are the first team in NCAA history to become besieged by Pirates on successive days but after a rout by host Seton Hall Saturday in their SHU Thanksgiving Classic, working the other direction Sunday in Walsh Gym a rally fell short to East Carolina, which also uses a swashbuckler as a mascot.

The game was decided on a 25-20 fourth quarter advantage from ECU (2-4).

Kamila Hoskova, who has been one of Rider’s mainstays after the Cinderella season of a year ago, had 18 points and 12 rebounds, while Stella Johnson had 16 points and reserve Jaiden Morris scored 14.

The loss of was tough for coach Lynn Milligan.

“Today was crushing in the most positive way,” she said. “I’m crushed for our kids.

“That was such a hard-fought game against a really good team. We just battled and battled. They threw the first point and we got up. It was a solid defensive effort, which is what was needed.”

It was the first-ever meeting between the Broncs of the Metro Atlantic Athletic Conference and Pirates of the American Athletic Conference.

Lea Favre had a career high 10 points for Rider.

The next game is back home in Alumni Gym Friday when Vermont, coached by former Penn assistant Chris Day, visits.

And that’s the report.