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.

Saturday, February 17, 2018

The Guru Report: Saint Joseph’s Rallies Past La Salle While Penn and Princeton Finish Weekend Road Sweep

By Mel Greenberg @womhoopsguru

PHILADELPHIA — Spotting La Salle an 11-point lead in the second quarter, Saint Joseph’s late season surge was reflected with a rally of tidal wave proportions as the Hawks produced a thunderous finish, including a near fourth-quarter shutout, to celebrate Senior Day Saturday afternoon with a 70-49 triumph in an Atlantic 10 game played at home in Hagan Arena.

The victory, the fourth straight, completed a season sweep of the Explorers with the earlier 75-64 win at La Salle late last month also counting in the final Big 5 standings that had Penn and Villanova land tied at the top.

In the only other two games Saturday involving Guru local teams, the Ivy 1-2 punch of Princeton and Penn completed sweeps of their New York road swing with Princeton beating Columbia 74-46 at the Lions’ Levien Gymnasium in New York City while Penn handled Cornell 53-39 at the Big Red’s Newman Arena in Ithaca making it two straight nights the Quakers’ opposition didn’t get past scoring 39 points.

Meanwhile, back here on Hawk Hill after ending  the third quarter with a 49-47 lead, Saint Joseph’s (14-12, 9-5 Atlantic 10) outscored the Explorers 21-2 in the fourth quarter with La Salle’s two points not occurring until Rayshel Brown’s jump shot with 1 minute, 37 seconds left in the game.

Echoing what has been a recent trend in the area and elsewhere involving rallies and defensive actions, the the Hawks’ stand in the last period was their best in limiting the opposition since the NCAA women switched three seasons ago from two 20-minute halves to four 10-minute quarters.

The win moved Saint Joseph’s into a tie for fifth in the conference sharing identical records with George Washington, which comes visiting Tuesday night at 7 p.m. in what will be the Hawks’ final home game on the regular season schedule.

They will then finish up next Saturday at Fordham and having beaten Davidson on the road before time expired Wednesday, Saint Joseph’s clinched a home-opener in the first round of the A-10 tournament against an opponent to be determined at 7 p.m. on Tuesday, Feb. 27.

Saint Joseph’s needs one more win, short of not capturing the A-10 tourney title that leads to an automatic NCAA bid, to become eligible for an at-large invite to the WNIT.

Following the A-10 home openers, the winners will move on to join the three teams at the top with byes at the completion of the conference tournament the following Friday, Saturday, and Sunday in Richmond, Va.

“Defensively, I thought the second half was terrific for us,” said Saint Joseph’s veteran coach Cindy Griffin. “From the jump, we started getting some steals and easy baskets and I thought we did a real nice job on the perimeter players.

“La Salle has some weapons and we were able to shut them down in the second half.”

As for what’s ahead, “We just won our fourth game in a row, we’re playing well, we’re playing how we know how to play. We have to be opportunistic when we have these situations.”

Sarah Veilleux had a game-high 19 points while Chelsea Woods had 17 points and nine rebounds, Amanda Fioravanti came off the bench to sizzle with 12 points off 6-for-8 shooting from the field along with three steals, and Alyssa Monaghan had 10 points.

Adreanna Miller had 13 points for La Salle (8-19, 3-11) while Amy Griffin scored 11 and Ashanti Freeland grabbed 10 rebounds.

Saint Joseph’s forced 18 turnovers leading to a 23-4 advantage in points in transition and a 38-28 advantage inside the paint.

Being it senior day, though there’s one home game left Tuesday, and then another a week later in the A-10 tourney, and possibly at least one more if the Hawks land in the WNIT, the school paid farewell to a large contingent of departing players.

Honored in postgame ceremonies were Adashia Franklyn, whose mother Marilyn Stephens is an all-time Temple great and member of the Philadelphia Sports Hall of Fame, Woods, Candace Belvedere, and while honored last year but still around due to injuries and transfer issues, Amanda Fioravanti and Jaryn Garner.

Also a senior, but eligible next year due to missing two seasons due to a stroke she suffered just before enrolling as a freshman, is Avery Marz, a recent winner of the Most Courageous Award from the Philadelphia Sports Writers Association and one from the United States Basketball Writers Association.

Marz will receive the USBWA Pat Summitt Most Courageous Award at the NCAA Women’s Final Four in Columbus, Ohio, at the end of March.

“The ‘18 Class was really a party of five, if you will, and then with the injuries and transfers we do lose a lot but we still want to focus on this year and there’s a lot to be done yet, so today was merely a timeout,” Griffin said.

Princeton and Penn Complete Ivy Series Sweep of Columbia and Cornell

For the second night in a row, Penn tamped down the opposition to 39 points and won at Cornell 53-39 to stay a game behind Princeton, which beat Columbia 74-46.

In the race for the four slots (men and women each) in the second annual Ivy tourney, returning to Penn’s Palestra next month, Dartmouth, which upset Yale in overtime Friday night, completed a weekend sweep winning at Brown 77-60 in Providence, R.I.

The Big Green (14-9, 6-4) in Friday’s win at Yale got a career-high 29 points from senior Kate Letkewicz. Her first foul shot and point of the night gave her 1,000 for her career, a milestone achieved by 16 other Dartmouth players in the program’s history.

“Tonight was a really pivotal night for our program,” said Dartmouth coach Belle Koclanes, after the win at Yale.

The Saturday win over Brown (14-9, 2-8) officially eliminated the Bears from Ivy tournament contention, a surprise since many expected them to be there back in the beginning of the season and especially after going 12-1 in non-conference competition.

Letkewicz, likely the Ivy player of the week, followed Friday’s performance with one less point at 28, while Emily Slagle scored 15 and Cy Lippold scored 10.

“This was really a great weekend for our program,” Koclanes said Saturday. “We want to advance to postseason play, so we have to understand how important every game is. I’m proud of our team’s effort.”

Brown, which advanced to the tournament last year won by Penn over Princeton, with Harvard the other of teams in the field, got 20 points from Justine Gaziano, 15 from Dominique Leonidas, and a double double of 13 points and 11 rebounds from Erika Steeves.

Yale, meanwhile, bounced back at home in New Haven, Conn., to upset Harvard 69-63 and create a three-way tie for third among the Eli (13-10, 6-4), Harvard (14-9, 6-4) and Dartmouth.

Penn with the Harvard loss opened up a two-game lead on all three for second.

In the game won by Penn (17-6, 8-2 Ivy), the inside tandem of senior Michelle Nwokedi and freshman Eleah Parker combined for 30 points, 22 rebounds and five blocked shots.

Penn has won 11 of its last 12 overall games while Princeton (19-4, 9-1) has won 13 of 14 and six straight and holds a one-game lead over the Quakers after completing a sweep of Penn Tuesday night at home in Jadwin Gym.

The Quakers and Tigers can officially clinch tourney slots this coming weekend on the road swings at Harvard and Dartmouth, which are seemingly barring a slide from the leaders, in a three-team race with Yale for the other two slots in the conference tourney.

Penn can dispatch Harvard and Dartmouth in the race for second with a sweep next weekend, though if Yale keeps pace beating Columbia and Cornell, the Eli may still be in the hunt.

In the game against Cornell, individually, Nwokedi had 20 points and 13 rebounds against the Big Green (6-17, 2-8), while Parker had 10 points and nine rebounds. The freshman from Charlotte also had four blocks and a steal.

The last time Penn held opponents to 39 or less points was in 2015 against Yale and Columbia, though, while consecutive, the effort did not occur the same weekend.

It’s the seventh straight time Penn has held the Big Red to 55 points or less.

Penn’s New England and final road swing next weekend features a stop at Harvard Friday at 6 in Cambridge, Mass., with the visit Saturday to Dartmouth tipping off at 5 p.m. in Hanover, N.H.

Samantha Widman, with 10 points, was the only Cornell player scoring in double figures.

In Princeton’s win, Leslie Robinson was 7-of-10 from the field for a team high 14 points, while grabbing eight rebounds and dishing five assists.

The freshmen tandem of Carlie Littlefield and reserve Abby Meyers each scored 12 points with Meyers grabbing seven rebounds.

It took a little extra to put the Lions away after the home team finished the first quarter trailing by a mere bucket 15-13.

The game between the Lions and Tigers was the fourth in the last two seasons since Meghan Griffith, a former Princeton assistant to Courtney Banghart and a native of King of Prussia in suburban Philadelphia, returned to her alma mater.

Camille Zimmerman, the leading scorer in the Ivy League, was held to 10 points for Columbia, shooting 3-of-18 from the field. She also grabbed nine rebounds and dealt eight assists.

Riley Casey also scored 10 points for the Lions.

Princeton’s New England tip times next weekend will be at 7 each night, beginning Friday at Dartmouth and then Saturday at Harvard with the game televised on NESN besides both games, as usual, carried on the Ivy Network.

And that’s the report with a larger one coming after Sunday’s action.


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