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, March 10, 2018

Bob Heller’s Philly WBB Small College Report: USciences Advances While Jefferson and West Chester Fall in D-2 NCAA

By Bob Heller (@Bob_Heller1)


 The University of the Sciences women’s basketball team opened their 2018 NCAA Tournament the same way they did in 2017, with a victory, earning a hard fought decision over LIU-Post 61-50 Friday afternoon at Stonehill College’s Merket Gymnasium in Easton, Massachusetts.


The third-seeded Devils notched their program record 29th win against three losses with the victory over the sixth seeded Pioneers, whose season comes to a close with the loss. LIU-Post finishes their season with a 22-8 record.  USciences will play #2 seed Bentley University on Saturday in the region semi-finals, locking to advance to the Sweet 16 foir the first time in program history. The Falcons defeated #7 seed Jefferson University 71-66 to advance to the region semi-final game.


"I think having been here last year is huge. Our players knew what to expect coming in. They were familiar with the whole routine," said Head Coach Jackie Hartzell. "Moving forward, we were in this game last year so we know what it's like to be in the second round and hopefully this year we have a better result." 


USciences’ big guns, CACC Player of the Year Sarah Abbonizio and First Team All-CACC honoree Alex Thomas did not have their best games as the Pioneer defense frustrated the two star players.  The Devils however had plenty of fire power in Jordan Vitelli who scored a game-high 21 points on 7-for-10 shooting from the field and a perfect 4-4 from the free throw line.  Thomas and Abbonizio did reach double figures in scoring late in the game and finished with 11 and 10 points respectively, but were a combined 8-for-24 from the field. 


"I think personally they scouted us pretty well, knowing we were a shooting team and knowing Alex (Thomas) and Sarah were our leading scorers," said Vitelli. "I think even if you take our leading scorers out of the game, we always have people who can come off the bench and score and keep us in the game."


“Everyone stepped up and did their part,” added Thomas.  “I think as a team we played really well.”


Abbonizio made up for the lackluster shooting effort by stuffing the stat sheet with seven rebounds, three assists and two steals.  Thomas grabbed five rebounds and had an assist.  In addition to Vitelli, freshman Irisa Ye was a key contributor off the bench, scoring nine points (4-6 FG) in 22 minutes of action.  


The Pioneers came out on fire early, jumping out to a 9-2 advantage in the first 2:15 of the game.  The devils steadily chipped away at the lead and eventually tied the score at 16-16 with a minute to go in the quarter on an Abbonizio three-point field goal.  Abbonizio gave the devils their first lead of the game, 18-16 with two free throws with 11 seconds left in the period.  A pioneer free throw closed out the scoring and the Devils held a slim one-point lead heading into the second quarter.


Taylah Hudson gave the Pioneers a 20-18 lead in trhe opening minute of the second quarter before the devils offense came alive, connecting on four of their next six shots while producing an 11-2 flourish to take a 29-22 lead midway through the period.  Post closed within three before a layup from Ye  and a Ye free throw on the Devils next possession pushed the lead back to six.  The Pioneers closed out the quarter with five straight points to close within one at halftime 32-31.  


The Devils defense held the Pioneers scoreless for the first 4:15 of the third quarter while their offense produced a 7-0 run to make the score 39-31. Hudson’s three-ball at the 5:45 mark broke the scoring drought for Post and cut ‘Sciences lead to five, 39-34.  Both teams went back-and-forth on the offensive end as the quarter progressed with the devils holding a 46-41 lead heading into the final ten minutes of action.


Shannon Doyle’s layup +one cut the Devils lead to two 48-46 just 1:42 into the quarter.  Another great defensive spurt by the Devils followed as they held the Pioneers scoreless over the next 5:23 and pushed their lead to double digits, 56-46 with eight straight points.  Two straight baskets from Sasha Patterson closed the gap to six, 56-50 with 2:32 left but the Devils shut them down again while scoring the last five points to earn the 61-50 win.


“LIU-Post is a great team,”  Hartzell added.  “We went on a few runs and knew they weren’t going to go away easy.  They kept fighting and going on runs of their own.  We were just fortunate to have the last run and we’re excited to move on.”


 Jefferson Hangs Tough but Falls to #2 Bentley


The Jefferson University women’s basketball team saw their season come to an end in the first round of the Division II NCAA East Region Championship on Friday as they dropped a close decision to Bentley University 71-66 at Stonehill College’s Merket Gymnasium in Easton, Massachusetts.


The seventh seeded Rams finish their season with a 26-6 mark.  The second seeded Falcons move on to play USciences in the NCAA East Region semi-finals on Saturday.


“I know I was really proud of our play today,” said Head Coach Tom Shirley.  “Our kids did very well.  Coming in as a seven seed and playing against arguably one of the best coaches in the country, a team that’s nationally ranked every year; 34 visits to the NCAA; 20 Northeast-10 championships so  I thought we gave them all that we had and thought we played very well.”


Erin Maher led the Rams with 16 points while Beverly Kum and Jessica Kaminski added 15 and 14 respectively. Kaminski also added eight rebounds and four asssits.


Five lead changes highlighted the first quarter as the Rams and Falcons battled back and forth.  Jefferson scored five of the first six points to grab the early lead before Bentley scored the next six to grab their first lead.  Maher’s three-pointer with 1:48 left put the Rams back up by one before the Falcons closed on the quarter with a 6-2 flourish to lead 20-17.


The Falcons owned the second quarter, limiting the Rams to just 12 points on  five field goals while opening up a double digit lead.  Kum opening the scoring with a basket to pull Jefferson within one 20-19.  Bentley followed with a 16-5 flourish to take a 36-24 leadwith 2:27 left in the period, before settling in for a ten-point advantage 39-29 at the half.


The Rams came out of the break on fire, cutting into the Falcon lead with a 10-3 run; pulling within three 42-39 with 6:28 left. Alyanna Williams opened the run with a three-point field goal and Kum’slayup at 6:28 made it a one-possession game.  Bentley scored the next five points to go back up by eight 47-39, forcing a timeout call by the Rams.  Following the break, the rams produced another run, a 12-4 effort to tie the game at 51-51 heading into the fourth quarter.  Maher had two three-point field goals during the run and a steal and jumper from Caitlyn Cunningham capped off the scoring.


Williams gave the Rams their first lead since the first quarter with a layup just 28 seconds into the final period.  Baskets by Rachel Day and Kum followed and the Rams held a six point advantage 57-51 with 7:43 left.  Jefferson still led by five 60-55 with just under four minutes to play when Bentley ran off five straight via a layup from Victoria Lux and a three-pointer from Lauren Green to tie the score at 60-60 with 3:16 remaining.


Kaminski sank two free throws to put the Rams back on top. But Bentley responded with a free throw and a basket on the other end to go up 63-62 with just over two minutes to play, a lead they held for the remainder of the contest.  Kaminski added a layup with 1:20 left to cut Bentley’s lead to two 66-64 and Williams missed a potential go-ahead three-pointer following a Falcon turnover with one minute left, forcing the Rams to have to foul.  Bentley converted 5-of-6 from the line in the final 45 seconds to seal the win and move on.


Lux led all players with 20 points and 12 rebounds while Megan Lewis came off the bench to score 18 points for the Falcons, who outshot the Rams from the field 48.1% (25-52) to 39.1% (25-64)


 West Chester Exits in First Round; Falling to Glenville State


Meanwhile over the Atlantic Region, West Chester University opened their NCAA Tournament as the #7 seed taking on #2 seed Glenville State University in Richmond, Virginia.  Glenville State’s high-powered offense was just too strong for the Rams as the Pioneers won 118-87.


The 118 points allowed were the most ever given up in program history.  The Golden Rams wrap up the season with a 23-6 record and their winless streak in the NCAA Tournament extends another year to 15.


Glenville State (30-1) will move onto the region semi-finals and face Indiana University of Pa. who defeated California (Pa.) in their first round match.


Mia Hopkins led five WCU players in double figures with 22 points and 15 rebounds.  Camden Boehner and Porscha Speller had 14 and 13 points respectively while Lexi Bruno added 12.  Destiny Jefferson came off the bench to score ten points.


Glenville jumped out to a ten point lead to start the game before Hopkins put the Golden Rams on the board with a traditional three-point play at the 7:40 mark.  West Chester closed within five on three occasions in the quarter as the fast pace continued.  The Pioneers held a 33-21 lead at the end of the period.


Glenville State outscored West Chester 32-11 in the second quarter to take a 65-33 lead at halftime. The Pioneers, who lead all of NCAA Division II with 13.1 three-point field goals per game, sank ten over the first 20 minutes.    Glenville also employed waves of reinforcements substituting four or five players at a time to continually press the West Chester offense.


“Glenville shot lights out,” said Golden Rams Head Coach Kiera Wooden. “We threw everything at them but the kitchen sink and they were just knocking down shots.


“When they are coming at you with five-in, five-out, and every one of them can hit 3’s at any given time, it just makes it that much more challenging.”


West Chester meanwhile was forced to go deep into their bench as their primary scorers Hopkins, Boehner and Speller were forced to sit with foul trouble – each of them picking up three in the half. 


“We have to learn how to adjust to what is called,” Wooden said. “It hurt because we had to bench people and play different combinations that haven’t normally played together.”


The second half was more evenly played but Glenville’s first half lead was just too big to overcome.  The Pioneers, who average just under 100 points per game (98.8) hit the century mark early in the fourth quarter and led by as many as 41 midway through the fourth quarter before the Golden Rams finished with a 14-4 flourish to make the final score 118-87.




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