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 03, 2018

The Guru’s A-10 Report: Saint Joseph’s Rides Veillux’s Buzzer Beater to Upset of Fordham Into the Semifinals

By Mel Greenberg @womhoopsguru

As it turns out, when Chelsea Woods barreled into the basket with :01 second left last Saturday to give the Saint Joseph’s women a 52-50 win over Fordham at the Rams’ Rose Hill Gym in the Bronx on the final day of the regular season, the Hawks’ star had all the time in the world by comparison to what happened Friday night in the Atlantic 10 quarterfinals against the same Rams in the Richmond Coliseum in Virginia.

After erasing an early 20-12 deficit the game again came down to the wire with Saint Joseph’s in possession and the ball in Woods’ hands.

Blockaded by a double team, Woods’ flicked a pass to Sarah Veilleux in the right corner and the perimeter shooting ace let it fly into the net with 00.6 left for a 52-49 upset and coach Cindy Griffin’s sixth-seeded group moves on to a semifinal at 1:30 p.m. against seventh- seeded Saint Louis, which upset third-seeded Duquesne 71-65 earlier in the day.

The game will air on the CBS Sports Network.

“This can’t be happening. I can’t believe it’s happening. Of course, it always happens,” quipped Griffin on the phone later after the game.

It’s a tale of irony when these two teams play, especially in light that Fordham’s coach and former Villanova star Stephanie Gaitley was Griffin’s predecessor at the Hawks coach’s alma mater.

In 2013, Saint Joseph’s broke a long NCAA drought when the Hawks in the final seconds defeated Fordham 47-46 in another defensive battle, this one bringing an Atlantic 10 title off the game played in the Barclays Center in Brooklyn, which was in its first year of operation.

“Chelsea was doubled, she saw Veilleux and got her ball and now Sarah’s the hero,” Griffin said.

What the win might have done is brought favor into the eyes of the Women’s NIT folks if the Hawks (17-13) don’t win the tournament, whose title game is Sunday.

“You would like to think that off our play down the stretch,” Griffin said.

Though Saint Joseph’s RPI was 149 through Thursday off a horrid mid-season marked by injuries, the Hawks down the stretch have been on fire winning seven of eight, including one at third-seeded Duquesne in their second meeting of the year.

The one loss was a narrow one recently on Hawk Hill to George Washington, which by seed as a five, gets credit for an upset of fourth-seeded George Mason 64-59 earlier Friday to advance against Dayton, the top seed and defending tourney champs.

The first semifinals game will air at 11 a.m. also on CBS Sports.

It was GWU’s third win against the Patriots (23-9), the Colonials’ nearby rival from Fairfax, Va., whose Natalie Butler, a graduate student and transfer senior from Connecticut, was named the A-10 player of the year.

Butler had her 31st double double of the season with 27 points and 12 rebounds for the Patriots, who set a program record with their now current 23 overall season wins.

If GWU (17-13) had not been upset last week on the final day of the season at home by Richmond, the Colonials would have gained the fourth seed through a tie-breaker.

Likewise, if Fordham (22-9) had not lost to Saint Joseph’s last week the Rams would have been tied with Duquesne and been seeded second through a tie-breaker.

In the GWU win, Kelli Prange had 15 points.

Dayton (23-5) got the day started holding off eighth-seeded Richmond 67-58 as Lauren Cannatelli and JaVonna Layfield each scored 17 points. The Spiders are now 14-17 with their season ended.

Saint Louis, which beat the Saint Joseph’s 96-73 in the Midwest in their lone season meeting, got a career-high matching 28 points from Jackie Kemph  to down the second-seeded Dukes (23-7), whose NCAA aspirations may have died with the loss.

Duquesne had beaten the Billikens in their season meeting.

Meanwhile, the winning shot from Veilleux, a native of Hebron, Conn., in UConn’s backyard, was the Hawks’ only made three-pointer of the night.

“That was an absolute perfect pass,” she said of the assist from Woods. “I had struggled, obviously, the whole game, and it was an incredible pass and I felt it from the corner.”

In the Saint Joseph’s current streak, four of the last six games were decided by one possession, and the Hawks have taken three of them.

“We’ve been in a lot of close games, so we’ve been in these situations, maybe a little too often, but it’s paying off this time of year,” Griffin said.

Woods had a game-high 18 points along with five rebounds and three assists, while Amanda Fioravanti had 13 points and Adashia Franklyn scored 12 to go with eight rebounds.

Fordham’s twin-engine attack on offense produced again with transfer freshman Bre Cavanaugh scoring 17 points and G’mrice Davis scoring 13 points and grabbing 18 rebounds.

And that’s it for the Atlantic 10 report.