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.

Wednesday, February 28, 2018

Guru Report: Saint Joseph’s Advances While La Salle Season Ends in A-10 First Round Action

Guru’s note: Postgame Scout was on the scene at St. Joe’s on Tuesday and the report is posted below this Guru roundup. Also, the D2 CACC quarterfinals are in this report down below.

By Mel Greenberg @womhoopsguru

PHILADELPHIA — There’s nothing sheepish this week when it come to the Saint Joseph’s women’s basketball team beating Rams.

Three days after edging Fordham on the road in the Bronx before time expired to end the regular season, the sixth-seeded Hawks eliminated 11th-seeded VCU 72-63 on what was a career night Tuesday for senior Chelsea Woods with 33 points against the Rams from Richmond, Va., at Hagan Arena in an Atlantic 10 tournament first-round game.

The points were the most by any Hawk women in the program’s history since Ayahna Cornish scored 35 at Dayton in 2007 and the most by any of them in the A-10 tourney since since Dale Hodges scored 35 against West Virginia in 1990 in an A-10 semifinal.

Woods scored the winning shot Saturday against the same Fordham Rams, the three seed, Saint Joseph’s (16-13) will now meet Friday night at 7 in the Richmond Coliseum in a quarterfinal game on the A-10 network, which will also air the other three games.

Fordham advanced as the survivor of the fittest Rams at its Rose Hill Gym, topping 14th-seeded Rhode Island 75-53.

And speaking of Rhode Island, even the Hawks men’s team Tuesday night got into this late season theme on campus as Phil Martelli’s bunch battered the 17th-ranked Rams of URI up in Kingston with a 78-48 triumph at the Ryan Center.

For the Hawks men who ruined the four-day glow of Rhode Island’s first ever outright A-10 regular season title and a chance to go unbeaten in the conference, it was their first true road win over a ranked team since beating No. 15 Georgetown on Jan. 2, 1979, which was 39 years ago.

A stat reported later said the Saint Joseph’s men’s triumph was only the second since keeping the records since 1949-50 and first since 1993-94 that an unranked team beat a ranked team on the road by 30 or more points.

Meanwhile, the only other local D-1 women’s team in action was also in the Atlantic 10 openers and the season came to end for No. 12 La Salle, which lost in the nation’s capital to No. 5 George Washington 69-49 and finished 8-22 overall and 3-13 in the 14-team conference.

Back here the recent performance of Woods, who also has starred in the Philadelphia Women’s NCAA Summer League, has led the Hawks out of the woods especially after recovering from a concussion.

Saint Joseph’s went 6-2 in February in getting back to above .500 and thus becoming eligible for an at-large bid to the Women’s NIT if the Hawks don’t win the continuation of the A-10 tourney this weekend, which will conclude Sunday at noon on ESPNU-TV.

“I thought our kids really battled tonight,” said Saint Joseph’s coach Cindy Griffin. “We knew VCU was going to be really well-prepared. When you play a team three times you know each other very, very well.

“And nothing came easy for us. We had to work for everything we got tonight and when we needed to make plays, we made plays, and when we needed to make stops, we certainly did that.”

As for Woods’ performance, which was Saint Joseph’s second best ever in the A-10 tourney and all other places the Hawks have appeared in the postseason, Griffin said, “Fantastic.

“Chelsea’s really playing well for us lately. Obviously she’s healthy now. She’s a great player and anytime we can get her touches, we would like to do that in the flow of offense, and she’s a tough matchup for people.

“We like to get help get her the ball in successful situations and her teammates help do that.”

Woods, of course, was motivated by the desire that as a senior this time of year in situations as the Hawks befell, a win helps extend your career to at least one more game, taking it round by round.

“Definitely. We’ve gone farther every year and that’s what we want to do, just keep going, climbing, and climbing.”

Woods shot 12-for-16 from the field and 9 of 12 on the line besides dealing two assists, blocking a pair of shots and grabbing a steal.

Sarah Veilleux scored 14 points and Alyssa Monaghan scored 12, all her points coming off a perfect 12-for-12 from the line, matching a standard previously set by Mary Sue Garrity, Angela Zampella, and current assistant coach Stephanie McCaffrey.

VCU (7-22), who split with the Hawks on the season, got 18 points from Taya Robinson and 13 from Nyra Williams.

“They did a good job,” VCU coach Beth O’Boyle said of the Hawks after concluding her fourth season and one that started with six graduated seniors gone from the Rams, three of which were 1,000-point scorers.

“It’s always tough when it’s over but like they say you can only have one winner at the end, right?”

But that moment is a month away until the title game of the NCAA tournament in Columbus, Ohio, though the champion of the WNIT will also finish on a happy note.

La Salle’s Season Finished by George Washington

The Colonials downed the Explorers 69-49 to advance against their area rival George Mason, which they swept at home in the Charles E. Smith Center and nearby at EagleBank Arena in Fairfax, Va.

La Salle hung tough in the opening quarter, trailing by a point at 14-13, before the Colonials took over the next three stanzas, 22-10 to pull away, 16-12, and 17-14.

Leading by five midway through the second quarter, the Explorers were swamped by a Colonials 20-2 run in which La Salle was scoreless for almost six minutes.

The home team’s defense stifled any notion of a second-half rally by the visitors.

Three GW players combined for 44 points — Brianna Cummings scored 18, Kelli Prange scored 16, and Kelsi Mahoney scored 10 while Mei-Lyn Bautista dished nine assists.

Adreana Miller had 14 points, Shalina Miller scored 13, and Amy Griffin, the A-10 leading scorer a year ago, had 12 in her final game for La Salle.

The telling statistic was GWU’s 27-7 domination in points off turnovers.

 As for the other teams looking to join the two bye schools —  Dayton and Duquesne — in Richmond, Friday, in Fordham’s win, the Rams (22-8) got 23 points and 15 rebounds from G’mrice Davis, Laura Holden scored 16, and Bre Cavanaugh scored 13.

Elemy Colome scored 15, Nicole Jorgensen scored 13, and Dina Motrechuk scored 10 as the season ended for Rhode Island (3-27).

Fourth seeded George Mason continuing its landmark season ousted No. 13 Saint Bonaventure 89-79 at home in Fairfax, Va., overcoming a 30-point performance from Mariah Ruff for the Bonnies (8-22).

Danielle Migliore scored 16 points and Mckenna Maycock scored 15.

The visitors opened with an 11-4 lead before the Patriots (23-8) rallied. 

George Mason’s Natalie Butler had 20 points and 19 rebounds, while Jacy Bolton scored 24.

While VCU is no longer alive to draw a home crowd this weekend, eighth-seed Richmond, which was in its Robins Center, snipped ninth-seeded Davidson 62-53, spurred by the Spiders seniors to take the short trip downtown Friday to the quarterfinals.

Richmond (14-16) never trailed, leading the Wildcats by as many as 16 points in avenging a loss from earlier in the season at home to Davidson (12-18).

Micaela Parson came within three of her career high, scoring 30 points, and also becoming the first player in Spiders history to top 150 foul shots made in a season, reaching 151. Her sister Alex scored 11 points.

Mackenzie Latt scored 22 for Davidson while Justine Lyon scored 14 and Katie Turner scored 11. Ally Welling pulled down 14 rebounds.

Saint Louis, the seventh seed, coming off last weekend’s upset of top seed and defending champion Dayton at home, bested 10th-seeded Massachusetts 70-64 rallying from a 16-point deficit in the first half to the Minutewomen (14-16) in Chaifetz Arena in the game played in the Midwest.

Jackie Kemph had a game-high 21 points for the Billikens (16-14), of which all but two came in the second half. She also dealt eight assists and was 9-for-10 on the line.

Kerri McMahan scored 15 to tie a career-high while Jenny Vliet reached her 1,000th career point, scoring 11 while grabbing seven rebounds.

A key to the comeback was holding UMass star Hailey Leidel to five points, shutting out the conference’s second best three-point shooter who was 0-for-9 from long distance.

Saint Louis equaled its game best 10 blocks that early also came against the visitors.

Maggie Mulligan had 14 points and 19 rebounds for the Minutewomen while Genesis Rivera scored 13, Paige McCormick scored 12 and Bre Hampton-Bey had 10.

The Friday quarterfinal action begins at 11 a.m. when top-seeded Dayton (22-5) meets Richmond at 11 a.m. The George Mason-George Washington game follows at 2 p.m. while Duquesne (23-6) plays Saint Louis at 4:30 p.m. and Saint Joseph’s and Fordham, as mentioned way above, wrap up the day at 7 p.m.

In terms of the bracket and Saturday’s semifinals, which will air on CBSSN, the Dayton-Richmond winner meets the George Mason-George Washington winner at 11 a.m. followed by the Duquesne-Saint Louis winner against the Saint Joseph’s-Fordham winner at 1:30 p.m.

Looking Ahead

Penn State (15-14) opens play in the Big Ten Tournament in Indianapolis at 4 p.m. Wednesday on the Big 10 Network meeting Illinois (9-21), while Rutgers has the day off until Thursday when the Scarlet Knights open in the second round playing Purdue.

As for teams still in regular season play, Drexel has a big one Thursday night at 7 playing at rival Delaware in the Bob Carpenter Center in Newark going for a sweep and trying to make its Colonial Athletic Association record portion of its overall mark dead even with James Madison at the top of the standings.

Then the Dragons will finish up Saturday hosting Charleston at 1 p.m., JMU hosts William & Mary, and Delaware, vastly improved since the CAA opener in December losing to Drexel, visits Towson.

Should Drexel and James Madison finish deadlocked, the Dragons likely will hold the No. 1 seed with a better RPI average as the tiebreaker for the CAA tourney, which Drexel will host, beginning a week from Wednesday in outbracket games and finish Saturday at 1 p.m. with the champion gaining an automatic NCAA tournament bid.

The field is set for the second annual four-team each but not the seeds on the women’s side of the second annual Ivy Tournament returning to Penn’s Palestra next weekend, not this one, with the women’s semifinals to play a week from Saturday at 6 and 8 p.m.

The championship for the NCAA automatic bid is a week from Sunday.

Princeton, which hosts Brown Friday and Yale, Saturday, needs a win to gain the top seed,having swept Penn, which needs a win Friday over Yale (7 p.m.) or Saturday over Brown (6 p.m.) to get the No. 2 seed, which also gains automatic entry to the Women’s NIT.

Yale, playing the teams mentioned above, is fighting for position alongside Harvard, which will finish by playing Columbia and Cornell.

The Ivy men are also involved with Penn holding a one-game lead over Harvard. The rest of the field is not totally set.

Nationally, as the rounds move closer to the weekend, a large portion of the NCAA field will take focus with the Power Five conferences all involved — The Atlantic Coast, the Big Ten, the Big 12, The Southeastern, and the PAC-12.

Other tourneys are The American at the Mohegan Sun where Temple opens Saturday against Wichita State and at the top No. 1 Connecticut will be shooting to stay totally unbeaten in American history besides heading into the NCAA with another unblemished record.

The Metro Atlantic Athletic Conference has Rider opening with Fairfield on Saturday, while in the Big East, Marquette and DePaul finished tied for the top, and Villanova, which was third, will open quarter final play in Chicago Sunday night playng Georgetown.

Division II Action — Jefferson and USciences Advance in CACC

At home in the Gallagher Center, Jefferson University (formerly Philadelphia U.), as the second south seed in the Central Atlantic Collegiate Conference, beat No. 3 North-seed Dominican 74-55 to move to the weekend’s semifinals and final, which the Rams are hosting for both the men and women.

Jefferson (25-4) will face Bloomfield at 2 p.m.

In the win over Dominican (11-18), Beverly Kum had 20 points and 15 rebounds. Alynna Williams had 13 points and Rachel Day had 12. Caitlyn Cunningham had all her 11 points in the first half.

Bloomfield (18-11) eliminated Holy Family 75-43 as the Tigers’ season ended at 10-18.

Zhane Robinson had 23 points and 10 rebounds for Bloomfield while Kiamsha Bynes scored 15 and Deja Mckenzie scored 13.

Holy Family (10-18) got 12 points from Elizabeth Radley and 11 from Alex Hofstaedter. 

USciences at home at Bobby Morgan Arena also advanced to Saturday’s action at Jefferson by beating Felician 58-41 to move on to playing Caldwell, the No. 2 seed from the North at noon.

Caldwell (25-5) is also the No. 5 team in the latest NCAA East Region Rankings and on Tuesday eliminated Chestnut Hill College  (19-10)  with a 109-49 victory.

Vicky Tumasz with 16 points was the only Chestnut Hill College player to score in double figures.

Tina Lebron had 24 points, leading six Caldwell players scoring in double digits.

Saturday’s winners will meet Sunday for the championship at noon.

In Tuesday’s win by USciences (26-3) over Felician (10-17), Colleen Walsh had nine three-pointers on the way to a career high 31 points, while Sarah Abbonizio scored 13.

The Devils beat Caldwell 66-56 at the end of January in their only meeting.

And that’s the report.

Postgame Scout: Saint Joseph’s “D” Gets the Hawks Past VCU to A-10 Quarterfinals

Guru’s note: Another in a series from Postgame Scout analyzing the strategy that made things happen.

By Postgame Scout

And so it begins!! 

 The march toward basketball madness began Tuesday night when VCU visited St. Joe’s Hagan Arena for the first round of the A-10 Tournament.  

Back to back blocked shots by each team on their first possessions set the tone for this competitive and hard fought game.  

 The ball was coming inside.

VCU transported the ball to the paint via the dribble.  St Joe’s preferred to deliver the ball inside via the pass.

The Rams’ quick hands and hustle were disruptive on defense. 

 But it was St Joe’s ability to defend the ball screens and shut down the driving lanes that made the difference defensively.

VCU’s dribble weave offense had trouble turning the corner and getting to the rim.  The Rams were at their best when scoring in the open court, but to St Joe’s credit that didn’t happen often.

St. Joe’s did an excellent job maintaining their composure against VCU’s pressure.  The Hawks’ constant movement and screening created hard fought passing lanes.  They found those passing lanes registering 15 assists to VCU’s 5.

St. Joe’s consistently pounded the ball inside to Chelsea Woods who wheeled and dealed and delivered.  She  scored a career high 33 points.  

VCU is a very young team who will grow from this experience.  

But St. Joe’s passing and poise coupled with an extraordinary effort by Woods made all the difference tonight.

Tuesday, February 27, 2018

The Guru Report: Short-Handed Memphis Clips Temple in Overtime in Regular Season Final

By Mel Greenberg @womhoopsguru

PHILADELPHIA — In any given year, the final outcome of 1 vs 2 in the American Athletic Conference, which has not been around that long, is usually wide apart when the 1 is powerful Connecticut, whose unblemished record in all games against league competition reached 98 Monday night as the Huskies wrapped up their 10th unbeaten regular season including time in the glory days of the old Big East.

But way down at the bottom some compelling basketball can occur when one team is banged up and playing without its talented point guard all season while the other is virtually decimated by a slew of injuries.

It was senior night here at Temple in the Owls’ McGonigle Hall where pregame ceremonies had them paying adieu to Khadijah Berger, Mykia Jones, and double double queen Tanaya Atkinson.

On the other side was a Memphis squad so reduced that when the the teams lined up for the pregame national anthem, one could have driven a bulldozer past the Tigers without touching anyone.

And so they began, womano womano, Memphis surprisingly attacking in the manner of one of Tennessee’s all-time heroe Davy Crockett and his outnumbered comrades going against the Mexicans at the Alamo.

Pounding the boards, the no-chance visitors thrived on second chance opportunities.

As regulation came to an end, Atkinson temporarily saved Temple, taking a shot the staff wanted in the hands of someone else, but a three-pointer successful nonetheless, and so it was that No. 10 (Memphis) and No. 11 (Temple) in the 12-team conference went at it for five minutes more.

And when it was finally over both teams won by subtraction.

Say what?


For Memphis, to continue to deal with its fate, in an NCAA title game pressure cooker of a contest, the Tigers had themselves an 83-78 victory.

For the Owls (11-18, 3-13 AAC), who parted with a one-game win streak, when the smoke cleared across the league and the bracket to set up this weekend’s American Conference tourney at the Mohegan Sun Arena in Uncasville, Conn., near New London, was released, the loss spared them the ultimate doom — UConn is totally out of Temple’s path until the end should the Owls do the impossible when they would meet the Huskies in the championship.

Considering that Temple is the only team in the conference to give up over 100 points in the two UConn games here and in Hartford, what’s not to like?

But first, let’s hear from Memphis coach Melissa McFerrin whose team was 7-1 lifetime against the Owls and the one did not occur on any visit to McGonigle or Liacouras next store.

 Considering the hand she dealt, having coached at Ohio State as an assistant who recruited Katie Smith, the WNBA and several other spots, besides previously as head coach of American before heading south, this win will have a special place in the room of memories.

“Our kids are so good,” she said as the Tigers left town at 10-19 overall and 5-11 in the league. “Early in the season our kids were down over losing our players and this and that but it’s just like another day at work now, we’re so used to adversity we played with five the other day, we found out we had another injury, we were laughing about it and we came up with a win against Tulane.

“So all we ask is play hard and stay with us and they certainly did that tonight. Two years ago we played Temple five overtimes and last year we had an overtime so we get a lot of situation work in overtime done when we play Temple.”

Alana Davis, a player not known for producing great statistics, had 23 points and 12 rebounds for Memphis. Cheyenne Creighton also double doubled with 18 points and 15 rebounds, while Brea Elmore also scored 23, and Taylor Barnes scored 14.

Atkinson in Temple’s last city appearance of 2018 — the Women’s NIT is not attainable — had 26 points and 14 rebounds, five steals and five assists, while Emani Mayo scored 15.

The Owls were outrebounded 49-40 but 19-11 on the offensive boards and the telling stat was the second chance points differential, which went to Memphis 21-13.

Temple had a 10 point lead before it began to fall apart late in the game.

“This is a tough loss to swallow,” said Temple coach Tonya Cardoza, who last year shared league coaching honors with UConn’s Geno Auriemma, her former boss, after Temple finished second in the regular season.

“On Senior Night, you want to win your last home game. It’s been a rough season but there are still people cheering us on. It is disappointing that we had opportunities and didn’t take advantage of them.

“”It is hard to win basketball games when you give up 19 offensive rebounds.”

Temple will need a quick win to avoid the shortest trip to the tournament this year and miss the comforts of Mohegan.

As the 11th seed, Temple will play the tourney overall opener on Saturday at noon against new member Wichita State, the sixth seed, after having a first-round bye 12 months ago.

If the Owls survive, it will be noon again on Sunday against third-seeded UCF.

Memphis as the eighth seed on Saturday will play ninth-seeded Tulane at 6 p.m., the winner to meet UConn Sunday.

Seventh-seeded East Carolina on Saturday plays after Temple at  2 against 10th-seeded SMU, while the other game that day has fifth-seeded Houston, a major improvement, meeting 12th seeded Tulsa at 8.

Of the other teams that had byes, UConn as mentioned begins quarterfinal action Sunday at 6:30 meeting the Memphis winner. Second-seeded USF meets the ECU winner at 2:30, and fourth-seeded Cincinnati, another improvement, meets the Houston winner at 8:30 p.m.

Monday’s semifinals are at 4:30 p.m. and 7, while the Tuesday championship will be at 5.

And with this being the only game on Monday, that’s the report and Tuesday night it’s on to Saint Joseph’s for the Hawks’ first-round Atlantic 10 tournament game against VCU at 7 at Hagan Arena.


Mike Siroky’s SEC Report: Onto The First Tournament

By Mike Siroky
The Southeastern Conference of women’s basketball has 25 percent of the finalists for the Naismith national Coach of the Year award. 

Mississippi State’s Vic Schaefer leads the group with Georgia’s Joni Taylor for reinvigorating Georgia and the Missouri coach.

Schaefer was a finalist last season, even though he wasn’t good enough to be the conference coach of the year. He has won the regular season and the top seed in this week’s league tournament as the undefeated No 2 team in America.

We said in the preseason Mississippi State was as likely to win the conference because they had more seniors than did South Carolina.

 Sure enough, the game the Gamecocks lost at home was when A’ja Wilson was injured. The games they lost on the road was when she was fouled out on some very iffy calls and when she was again absent.

Here’s the thing: All SEC teams with winning records are likely to be in the NCAA eliminations. No other league has seven ranked teams. No other league will have all of its members with winning records advance.

One the  bottom side, the league has four teams finishing their seasons with nothing to look forward to.

New coaches at Arkansas and Florida began the slow rebuilding process but are destined to be below .500 and so not even NIT eligible. Vanderbilt has a second-year coach in the same mud. The Ole Miss futility just won’t get better.

Ole Miss is the biggest disappointment. If there is a conference coaching change, sadly it is there.

Half of these four will get one more win when the conference elimination tournament starts Wednesday.

Kentucky two games under even, is on life support as three SEC tournament wins are unlikely. As we guessed earlier, all those defections are finally having an impact on the career of coach Matthew Mitchell.

Auburn will also finish beneath .500.  Alabama still needs to win two more against ranked teams to get to 20 wins. They are the likely eighth pick of the NCAAs if they do that.

So this is the season, as we previously reported, that conference ranked teams all are in the NCAA  eliminations. 

The top four finishers in the conference tournament are likely Sweet 16 teams as first-round tournament hosts. Maybe one more. But Tennessee played itself onto the edge of the best 16 with a dwindling effort the past two weeks.

So here’s how the season closed, ending with Monday’s Associated  Press rankings.
No. 2 Mississippi State

The Bulldogs triumphantly completed a 30-0 season. It is naturally a program record. 

It is the only other undefeated team in America after UConn. It should have earned them the school’s first No. 1 NCAA seed.

Senior Night in StarkVegas was magnificent.

Roshunda Johnson, Blair Schaefer, Victoria Vivians and Morgan William were honored as the most-successful quartet in program history.

 Attendance passed the 200,000 mark, another program record, and so coach Vic Schaefer contributed 10 grand to the Starkville Boys & Girls Club, as he pledged he would do.

For all the celebration meant, we can only wonder at the pride he feels for his daughter completing this part of her life journey. He is the first coach ever to get a daughter to a Final Four and a top seed in the NCAA eliminations.

“You know, I’ve said this a lot. I’m living the dream,” he said.

“Coaching Mississippi State, coaching the players that I’ve been fortunate to coach. To have my own kid on the team, who is a starter on the No. 2 team in the country, I mean, that is living the dream.

“You know, she’s earned her way. I said this before, Blair was one of five in Mississippi. They only had five First Team All-State in the whole state. And she was one of those five. She comes here and she played in 29, I think, out of 34 games her first year; and second year, she played in all the games.

 “She averaged 8 or 10 minutes a game. You know, for a young kid that feels like they want more, deserve more, most kids across the country go, ‘Hey, this ain’t working,’ and go somewhere else.

“She and I had that conversation when we got back from Connecticut. My message to her as the coach was, ‘You know what, I think you can do more but you know what, you need to get in the gym and work more.’

“And she did. Give that kid credit. She got in the gym and worked at it. She’s made herself into a Southeastern Conference basketball player. She averages more minutes on our team than anybody. I can’t take her off the floor. She’s the glue. She’s our toughness kid. She takes more charges. She’s our best help defender. 

“You have to guard her over there, and if you don’t, she’ll knock down a shot. By standing over there and being a space-heater opens up the floor for the other four who are really good at what they do. You know, that day seems a long time ago, and yet it seems like yesterday.”

Blair Schaefer knew it would a unique experience.

“I don’t think I could have imagined this going any better. The fans, my family and everyone just embracing all of us is an amazing feeling. The support that we have received is great, and I’m very appreciative of it. I love the family atmosphere that Starkville brings.”

So the magic blend of this quartet has become solid.

“It’s a pretty special group of seniors,” he said.

“It’s hard to believe it’s been four years. I’m really excited for them to be able to play here at home again. We’ve got another sellout for them. They deserve it. Each of them has done so much for the program over years.

“It’s not our last game. It’s their last home for the season for conference. That’s it. I’m just so proud of each of them and appreciative for each of them. What they’ve done and brought to the table. 

“What they’ve meant to this university and to our community. They’re tremendous family kids. Their parents have done a wonderful job with them. It’s been easy to coach each of them. 

“They’re fiercely competitive. They’re just great kids. They’ve been wonderful. I’m excited for them for not only this season and what we’ve been able to accomplish, but I think there’s something special in store for them as well.

“Like they said, I think they understand each other. They respect each other. They’re certainly similar in their competitive fire. In wanting to win, I think they’re different in some other areas and other ways.

 “They respect that. They don’t judge. 

“I think they know that each of them, if they have gotten the spot, they can call on any of other three, they’d be there for them. No matter when. I think that’s a real special bond. It’s a special relationship that you have with somebody.

“And so, when you mention these two (Roshunda Johnson and Blair Schaefer) weren’t starters last year. But their chemistry was developed going against last year’s starter team. Remember, I told y’all, they’re team was beating the starters with a month left to go in the season.

“That’s why when we made the change; I had no problem doing it because I knew they had been beating the other kids for a month, you know, when we’d had certain drills. 

“So, I just think that they’re selfless. You know, they’re very unselfish. They don’t care who gets the glory, they just want to win. And at the end of the day, they’re very, very driven.

 “Each of them, academically, they’ve been driven. I think it’s carried over into their basketball. Or maybe it’s a basketball drive that’s carried into their academics. I just think they’re driven young ladies. They’ve had a lot of success here and they’ll be successful in life.

“I think their legacy is yet to be determined. I told them going into this year that for those four seniors, you won’t be remembered for last year. Your legacy will be what you do this year. And I told them that before we even played the first game.

“That’s where they are right now. That’s why we’re as successful as we are because they want their legacy to be something unique and special just like last year’s team and last year’s group of seniors. 

“Part of our success has been we’ve been able to stack classes in recruiting, and that’s what you have to do. You can’t have a good recruiting class and then go two, three years before you have another good one. 

“We signed (Dominique Dillingham), (Breanna Richardson), Chinwe (Okorie) and Ketara (Chapel). That class was ranked like 35th. Only one kid was a top-100 kid.

“Then you go sign this class with (Morgan William), Blair and Victoria (Vivians). Victoria should have been a McDonald’s All-American. She scored 5,700 points in high school.

“Again, the people on that committee have no idea and have no respect for what that kid had to do in her high school career.

“Night-in and night-out going against three people. I mean, I watched two people guard her four teammates while three people hung on her like birds in a tree. You know, she was a top-25 kid in the country, an impact kid from a scoring standpoint. 

“Then we back that up with (Jazzmun Holmes) and (Teaira McCowan). T is the No. 2 post-player in the country, top-18 player. Jazz has obviously been a huge impact for us from a standpoint of what she’s brought to the table.

“So, that’s always the secret to your success is recruiting. You have to retain them, and then you have to develop them. I think we’ve done that with these kids.

 “Then you throw (Roshunda Johnson) in. We tried to recruit Ro our first year here. We got on her too late. We weren’t any good and she was going to another program that was Top-20. Once we got a little bit better and she decided she wanted to leave, this was a great fit for her because she wanted to play our style.

 “She felt like that style would help her get to the next level, which I don’t think there’s any question that’s going to happen. It was important. That recruiting class was very important, and their impact on our program allowed that first group to have some help. That’s what this group provided.”
Blair Schaefer said the four-year ride has solidified.

“We equally understand what our team needs in order for us to win, so we find the things that we are good at and complement each other really well. Our awareness of what it takes to win a game is because of last year, and we now understand that we had to add certain aspects to our game individually in order for it to flourish for us to be where we are today.”

Johnson had a simple assessment of her classmates

“I know that Victoria enjoys eating doughnuts a lot. Blair loves Snapchat, and Morgan loves to crack jokes to us nonstop,” she said.

 William echoed them all.

“It’s been a great experience – being from Alabama. I didn’t know what I was stepping into,” said said. “I’d never even been to Mississippi. I felt like I just knew what home was. I trusted and believed the vision of the coaches, and it turned out great.”

Vivians has observations on the fun mix.

“I know Morgan likes to scare Blair when she’s at home,” Vivians said. “Ro will wear eyelashes, and Blair likes to be dramatic when she speaks.”

Coming to play for Schaefer was an any decision.

 “Just believing,” Vivians said. “You can’t go somewhere where everything is perfect, so you need to believe in the process. We’ve had some great recruiting classes, so I just believed in it.”

The chances are rare, but they did it. There were not many dry eyes in the house when he embraced her after the 82-61 wipeout of Auburn.

Junior all-conference center Teaira McCowan honored her senior classmates with 16 points and 18 rebounds, in front of a crowd of 9,474.

“I don't know if anyone had a better day than me today,” Schaefer said. “I’m so proud of my seniors. Senior nights are always bitter sweet, but this night was purely a celebration. We had 9,400 there and they deserved everyone that was here.”

Vivians and Roshunda Johnson each scored 16 – Johnson hit her first three 3s – and William scored 11. Vivians is the league's third-best scorer at 19.7 per game

“I think we were all pretty excited and let the game come to us,” Johnson said. “Once we got the momentum going, everything else fell into place.”

The season closer at Kentucky meant more than the undefeated season. It is also the first win ever for Schaefer in Lexington. The win competes another first on his bucket list.

They won every quarter and had a comfortable nine-point lead halfway through the second. SEC Player of the Week Teaira McCowan already had a double/double, 15 points and 10 rebounds with a block. She led the league for the season with 13 rebounds per game ands was the fourth-best scorer, 18.7 per.

It was 46-31 at the break. Chloe Bibby had eight off the bench. Blair Schaefer exploded for four 3s in the third as the rout continued.

It was happy time for State as the loss here at this point last season cost them the SEC title. Vivians had 16 with four assists as the quarter closed with State up 19. They ended it 85-63.

Bibby has 10, Schaefer a dozen, Vivians doubled with 18 and 10, Johnson hit all three 3s and scored 15 and McCowan went 20 and 20.

Significantly, it pushed UK two games below .500 which means they must win three in the SEC tournament (two to get even, one to stay there) to reach .500. The Kats will not be in the post-season so let the delayed analysis of the impact of all the defectors begin.

In the SEC tournament, State gets to wait until the Friday quarterfinals, but will celebrate their all-conference selections first.

Usually, an undefeated team gets at least one All-American as well by the national voters looking to validate their season. 

Vivians has earned that in four seasons of mostly superlatives. Only being sent to the bench in last season’s run to the title game was a speed bump.

Her whole career has been slightly depressed by the existence of A’ja Wilson’s undeniable magnificence as she started as a rookie while Wilson came off the bench.

Schaefer has always valued team play over a superstar -based lineup. Both ideas work, which is how the SEC had both national finalists a year ago.

They get a double-bye until Friday’s quarterfinals. Lucky Kentucky is likely to be that first foe.

No. 8 South Carolina

The Gamecocks, with the only conference All-American so far, won at home against LSU with her and lost at Tennessee without her.

We said in January A’Ja Wilson would be the Player of the Year and that remains without mystery. She should have a teammate on the all-conference team.

The delicious idea they will meet Missouri in a WWE-style game makes that the best-anticipated matchup until the title game which they could well win and take the undisputed official league crown, earning the only NCAA guaranteed spot and making the other six ranked teams at-large.

Dawn Staley did what she has expected in recent seasons, building a team around Wilson.

For the start of the season, it was senior transfer-in from Penn State Lindsey Spann, as the one-and-done  long-distance gun, melding in UK transfer Alexis Jennings as the other frontliner with Wilson.

 Former Tennessee point guard Te’a Cooper lost an NCAA appeal and will be that player next season.

In her lone season as a Gamecock, Lindsey Spann spent the first month leading the SEC in 3s before injuries interrupted her hot-shooting start. Her six 3s at Clemson are the most by any Gamecock this season.

The rehabilitated knee could not hold up. It is significant how quickly Staley was able to shift other players once she was lost without disrupting momentum.

Wilson had already led three of the Gamecocks' four SEC regular-season championship teams, all three SEC Tournament champions and both NCAA Final Fours.

South Carolina has won 118 of her career 131 games played, and she has scored in double figures in 115 of those. 

Now three times the SEC Player of the Year and a national player of the year finalist in a second All-American consensus first team, Wilson holds school records for career blocked shots, free throws made and free throw attempts.

 Her 19 double-doubles this season are her most in a single season and give her 49 in her career.

 The only player ranked among the nation's top 30 in scoring, rebounding and blocked shots average, she is among NCAA Div. I's top one percent in those three categories as well as defensive rebounds per game (8.0).

She moved into second place in the program's all-time points list (29 to tie the record 2,266).

Averaging 22.7 points, 11.5 rebounds and 3.4 blocks, she ranks eighth, 12th and fifth in the nation in those categories. She naturally led the league in scoring.

The lucky No. 24 Ben-Gals had this as their first game as a ranked team. They hadn’t both been ranked in the series since 2014. SC won, of course, 57-48.

Wilson had starting and ending ovations, the first lasting a minute.

She a special gift for her home fans: A career record 24 rebounds to go with 27 points, the first 20/20 Gamecock to do that since 1981, before the Staley era.

She has more than 1,000 points in conference games. No one before has ever done that.

“My first thought coming out was I hope my mascara wasn’t running. So it was not the boards at all,” Wilson said, laughing, on Senior Night. “I’m probably going to cry next year when we don't have her,” Staley said.

The of-course 12,835 sellout crowd included South Carolina’s athletics director and president decked out in fake pearls to honor Wilson's favorite thing to wear off the court. 

Wilson's grandmother gave her a set of pearls when she was about 10, telling her, “A pretty girl always wears her pearls.”

Columbia mayor Steve Benjamin had some as he gave her the key to the city. Most of her teammates were wearing pearls as the starting lineups were announced.

“I felt my grandmother’s spirit in the arena,” Wilson said. “It was great.”

This made consecutive seasons in which South Carolina has recorded double-digit SEC wins and at least 20 total wins

Onto Knoxville and a plateaued program. Holly Warlick is one of the few coaches with a non-losing record against Staley, now 5-3.

The biggest bam was the absence of Wilson. She had missed the only home defeat, against Tennessee and now she was not in Knoxville. She had that kind of flu which causes vertigo and so remained in bed in Columbia.

That unfettered Russell, who had been more of a spectator lately, doubled with 16 points and Rennia Davis had 18 points, 10 rebounds and four assists off the bench. True, she started all the other games this season, but Warlick followed the Lady Vol tradition of starting seniors and that meant Kortney Dunbar with Russell and Jaime Nared.

They put it away in a 14-0 start that led to a 29-9 third quarter, going where Wilson wasn’t, 25 of those points in the paint.

Staley is pretending like Wilson's status for this week's SEC tournament remains uncertain.

“I’ll be on bended knee, hoping that she’ll be back Friday,” Staley said. “I don’t know. I think first and foremost is her health and making sure that she’s healthy. We’re just going to take it day by day obviously because vertigo isn’t anything you play around with.

Staley said Wilson started showing some symptoms Friday.

But as late as Friday Staley had been pumping Wilson.

“When you have players like A’ja, it increases your chances of winning the game,” Staley said.

 “(Wilson) gives you a shot, no matter who’s around her,” Staley said. “She gives you a shot at winning the basketball game, and we’re glad that she’s healthy, we’re glad that she’s playing some of her best basketball, and hopefully that continues on Sunday.

 “There are NCAA implications on the line. So the more we win, I want (the NCAA selection committee) to look at the last 10 of our games and see that we’ve won 90 percent of them, and that usually leads to something good,” Staley said.

Wilson was that rare SEC player with a winning record against UT, 3-1.

“Just honestly go out there and control what we can control,” Wilson had said. “We can’t talk about the standings or the seeds or any of that. We just have to go out there and play within our system.”

Continuing the pretensions, Lady Vols coach Holly Warlick said Tennessee didn’t dramatically alter its game plan when it became apparent Wilson wouldn’t play. 

Warlick said South Carolina has plenty of firepower even without the national player of the year candidate.

“South Carolina’s very capable of winning a basketball game, I think, without A’ja Wilson,” Warlick said.

Even so, the box score reflected the impact of Wilson's absence. South Carolina had its highest turnover total (21) and lowest point total of the season as its five-game winning streak disintegrated.

“We really came out in the third quarter and just jumped on them defensively," said Russell. “Our press was really good, really forced a lot of turnovers and kind of sped them up in the offense. I think that’s what really helped us get on a run.”

Mikiah Herbert Harrigan started in Wilson's place and scored a team-high 17 points. 

The only other South Carolina player in double figures was Doniyah Cliney with 14.

The Gamecocks needed their No. 2 and No. 3 scorers -- Alexis Jennings and Tyasha Harris -- to step up in Wilson's absence. They did not, a combined 2-of-11 from the floor. Jennings scored three points and Harris scored two.

The Gamecocks still get a double-bye into the quarterfinals. Georgia could emerge as the semifinal foe. But Tennessee won a possible quarterfinal rematch, maybe this time will all players available. At the least, the Vols probably won two home games and entry to the Sweet 16 in the next tournament.
No. 12 Tennessee

The national fall from grace continued in becoming non-competitive late in the conference the program once ruled.

 Any non-conference team would love to be where they are. In the SEC, they are just another also-ran.

Luckily Florida is not yet competitive. It allowed coach Holly Warlick to already reach 150 wins as the real coach, which does not count the season she ran the team while her predecessor was present by fighting a fatal disease.

The contrast between past glory and the unfulfilled promise of the present was underlined as rookies helped secure the final regular-season win. 

Freshman Rennia Davis returned to her home state and notched her seventh double-double, 11 points, 10 rebounds, leading a balanced attack in the  70-42 win.

Evina Westbrook and senior leader Jaime Nared had 13 points apiece for the Lady Vols.  At one point Florida missed 11 straight while UT scored 10 unanswered. They had 17 steals, the most in a decade.

UT slid to seventh place in the league.

The sad career close of Mercedes Russell was earned. Classmate Jaime Nared deserved better. We may yet find out why Russell became mostly a spectator lately. 

Injury perhaps? 

She could well be gifted on the All-SEC team as a lifetime achievement award because coaches do silly things like that every season. Nared earned her spot. Kortney Dunbar is the other senior.

“Coach believes in us; we believe in each other,” said Dunbar

“Like Jaime said, of the freshmen: They can get us there. They are experienced enough now. They have experience in big games. Hopefully ending on a high note will set us up for national championship run.”

Like the others, the 13,058  for the season finale had family members.

“I know me personally, there’s a minibus coming from Illinois. I’m sure it’s probably the same for both of them, but I probably have about 20-25 people.”

Tennessee has three wins over top 7 teams (Texas was the other one) and no else in the SEC had that.

No. 15 Texas A&M

The Aggies have national Freshman-of-the-Year Chennedy Carter. She never went a game without double figures. She will double as a member of the all-league team after being totally ignored in the pre-season by conference coaches. She finished second in the league in scoring to Wilson.

Gary Blair told y’all.

The Aggies in the SEC tournament are the No. 5 team, a possible breakthrough to the Sweet 16, as they have shown enough to get at least that.

 If they are thrown into UConn’s bracket, again, Carter can at least make them competitive in the Sweet 16 qualifier. 

She was freshman of the week again, as silly a decision as naming anyone else player of the week compared to Wilson. 

Carter is always freshman of the week. Even when the league pretends otherwise. 

She is second in conference scoring for the season.

Tennessee may have the best group of seniors and may well prove the better team because of their numbers, but she is the best individual.

They were at Arkansas then contended with No. 14 Missouri.

Given the chance at Arkansas – a former coaching stop for Gary Blair --  the Aggies scored a conference program record in the 104-60 win.

Carter scored 21. Thee of the other four starters hit double figures. Anriel Howard’s double/double had 15 of each kind.

A&M won the third 36-14 o take a 91-47 lead, so 100 was inevitable. The Aggies hit 14-of -18 in the third quarter, 5-of-6 3s.

All of the cadets attended the home closer for Mizzou, in a crowd of 6,627.

Blair easily outcoached the Missouri cypher, 82-63. They led by as many as 26, ending Missouri’s six-game win streak.

Howard turned in her sixth straight double/double and became Texas A&M's career and single-season rebounding record-holder. She had 16 points and 10 rebounds for 923 rebounds in her career, 360 this season.

A 14-0 run gave the Aggies a 20-point lead late in the first half and was extended to 25 midway through the third quarter after a 10-0 surge. The lead remained comfortably in double figures.

“I don't know why we played so well on defense today,” Blair said.

“I think Missouri was a little sloppy on some of their passes, and we were in the passing lanes and staying in front. When it was 11-11 early, they were running their offense well, made a 3 and had four other easy shots.

“I was really worried, but then we adjusted something and we never had to go to straight man. We were able to stay in the matchup, keep people in front of us, and then they missed shots in the second quarter they normally hit.

“It wasn’t until the last quarter they started hitting some shots. Defense needs to be a constant. Offense comes and goes, but defense, you should be able to play. It takes communication skills.

“A couple of times we made mistakes because kids were not talking. Anriel ran into a couple of kids and got lost on three or so, and that’s just something we've got to do better.”

Carter scored 23 and Danni Williams 20 for the Aggies. Mizzou is in sixth place.

Each misses the double-bye, which means play-in games to the quarterfinals. 

Missouri would have to beat Georgia to get the delicious drama matchup with South Carolina. If the seeds are correct, A&M gets LSU in the quarters.

No. 19 Georgia

They finished, as we projected, with three straight wins in one week, the  second-best active streak in the league They had lost two straight to higher-ranked teams before this. The did not budge in the national rankings.

They began the ascension to redemption at Ole Miss, handing the Rebels a 15th loss in 17 games, 66-52.

Georgia has ridden defense all season, leading the league in shooting percentage allowed, 35.2 and holding Ole Miss to 32.1

The exclamation points were single-digit quarters allowed, six and eight, to close each half.

Caliya Robinson scored 16 of her 28 in the opening half and a 35-18 lead. She finished with 28 points and 10 rebounds. Freshman Que Morrison also had a double/double, 10 and 10.The Rebels

Robinson’s output is a career-best.

She said it is just a matter of “Stay focused and execute. I wasn’t trying to do too much. Defense is really just helping my team out,” she said. “We just play basketball and have fun. If we play defense, I think we got it.”

They continued against the bottom feeders, at Florida and home for Vandy, fifth place in the league. This earns them No. 3 in conference. They get the final double-bye. If they survive to the semifinals, they face, SC.

In the Alabama game, a Robinson putback with three seconds left defined the difference between an upper-echelon SEC team and a program that never seems to find traction. 

How do you not tell your team, “Anyone but Robinson!” in a game situation? It is too early to predict this, but The Tide will someday get serious and hire a real coach and then they can be competitive.

Robinson tied it and Georgia won it, 49-43. Senior forward Mackenzie Engram led all scorers with 16, Robinson had a double/double with 12 of each flavor. 

“I thought we were relentless defensively when things did not go our way on the offensive end,” Joni Taylor said. “For us, we finally stopped turning it over in the overtime and that was the difference.” 

 Georgia survived 18 first-half turnovers.

Closing at home, they rushed past Florida and claimed third in the conference.

They led by a dozen at halftime, with well-distributed scoring. Freshman guard Maya Caldwell, a reserve, had scored eight to lead them.

Neither team hit double figures  for most of the third. Georgia ended that with a 15-point lead.

They won, 63-43, imposing third and fourth-quarter single digits on the ’Gators. 

Everyone on the team scored. Engram led the spread sheet with a dozen, matched by reserve rookie Gabby Connally.

They are a solid third in conference. Their likely semifinal opponent would be South Carolina.

No. 24 LSU

The surprising Ben-Gals scratched their way to a double-bye and fourth place in conference, eclipsing the season-long efforts of Texas A&M, Missouri and Tennessee by beating all of them, gaining a ranking by finishing 8-2. But they stayed the same in the national image.

It took overtime, but they ended 79-78 with Alabama, which says as much about the Tide trying to get attention as anything else.

They will both be on the road from now on.

A career-high 27 points from Ayana Mitchell and a season-high 31 from Chloe Jackson did it.

Alabama outscored LSU 23-10 in the fourth, taking the lead with four seconds remaining. LSU called a timeout and with under two seconds remaining, freshman  Khayla Pointer a second time to the outstretched arms of Mitchell, who laid the ball up and in at the buzzer, forcing LSU’s only overtime this season.

Jackson took in overtime, scoring six of LSU’s nine.

Alabama won the rebound battle, 50-40, but LSU was able to consistently force turnovers and score 21 points off of Alabama’s miscues.

“It takes a lot of discipline,” said LSU coach Nikki Fargas. “I don’t think they know how good they really are.”

Negative trend 1: Once the league unapologetically tried to sell us a bag of bolts and picked a cipher as last season’s Coach of The Year, it is hard to guess what it will do with the downgraded title. An undefeated coach? A national Hall of Fame coach? 

Both accomplishments happened this season. Or the coach who drove a former great program out of the ditch she drove it into and out of the playoffs last season. 

She has plenty of wins and is another No. 5 or No. 6 team in the national eliminations. 

The conference loves to award female coaches over male coaches, so there’s the slight favorite.

Maybe just a subsequent punch in its own eye with someone else. The award is worthless right now.

Negative Trend 2: No one likes to see off-court eruptions. Dawn Staley has sued Missouri athletic director Jim Sterk (rhymes with . . . ) – and he was also fined by the conference,

The defamation suit comes after Sterk made accusations about her after a game last month.

He was not at the game, as we have reported. His own coach said at gametime there was nothing to it.

 Game officials also observed they did not call any extra penalty when one of the Tiger players intentionally bumped into SC star A’ja Wilson while exiting the court.

Missouri, of course, gave Sterk a vote of confidence because, to them it’s just girls’ basketball.

They will pay the $25,000 fine for his remarks and accept the reprimand,
Sterk accused Staley of promoting a hostile and negative atmosphere and said Missouri players were spit on and heard racial epithets. SC starts an all-black team; Missouri does not.

        In her lawsuit, Staley cites Sterk's "false, defamatory and reckless" statements. Staley is seeking damages not to exceed $75,000.

“We're not going to let him destroy in one day the sterling reputation she spent a lifetime building,” said Staley’s lawyer, Butch Bowers. SEC Commissioner Greg Sankey said, “There is no place in this league for discord inside or outside of the arena.

"I have had multiple conversations over the past few weeks with representatives of both schools about the problems emanating from their Jan. 28 game, and it has been my desire for those issues to be mutually resolved between the athletic programs and individuals involved,” he said. “Unfortunately, a mutual resolution does not appear imminent. Our hope is that we can direct our focus back where it belongs -- on our student-athletes and on-court competition.”

Sterk made his comments two days after the game on Columbia, Missouri, radio station KTGR.

“We had players spit on and called the N-word and things like that . . . It was not a good environment, and unfortunately, I think Coach Staley promoted that kind of atmosphere. And it’s unfortunate that she felt she had to do that,” he said.

South Carolina athletic director Ray Tanner said his university had conducted an investigation – with those actually at the game -- after Sterk’s comments and had found “no confirmation of the alleged behavior directed at the visiting team by fans at the game.”

Then Staley said, “The accusations are serious and false, and they will be handled in a manner reflective of those facts.”

The suit notes that Sterk repeated the allegations in a St. Louis radio interview, after South Carolina's investigation had found no evidence to support it.

The lawsuit says Sterk had been given multiple opportunities to retract the statement but had refused to do so. He has made no public comments on the matter since Feb. 1.
For the second straight season, No. 14 Missouri declined to participate in our coverage.

Bob Heller’s Philly WBB Small College Report: The D-2 Edition

By Bob Heller (@Bob_Heller1)

The regular season has come to an end in the Division II ranks as six of the area seven programs will move on to compete in their conference post-season championship tournament.

  Before those games commence, we’ll look back at last week’s regular season finales and get a quick glimpse of who will be playing who.

Chestnut Hill Snaps USciences Win Streak

The University of the Sciences, who clinched their second consecutive CACC South Division title a week ago, had their record setting 18-game winning streak snapped at the hands of Chestnut Hill College on Saturday, losing on the Griffins home court, 80-77.

The Griffins, who appear to have the Devils number, swept the season series with the win.  

The Devils will still have the number one overall seed for the upcoming CACC playoffs with a 17-2 conference mark and a 25-3 overall record. 

 They will host a quarterfinal playoff game against Felician College (#4 North) on Wednesday at 7:00 p.m.

Chestnut Hill meanwhile will travel to face the #2 seed in the north Caldwell University on Wednesday as well. 

 Caldwell defeated the Griffins 80-68 in their only meeting this year.

Chestnut Hill led against USciences for nearly the entire game except for one possession where the Devils held a 10-9 advantage in the first quarter.  

The Griffins followed with seven straight points  and took a 21-15 lead at the end of the first quarter and increased their lead to 12, 46-34 by halftime.

The Griffins opened the third quarter with a 10-3 run to take their biggest lead at 56-37 before the Devils began to claw their way back into the game. 

 A 14-0 uprising by Sciences closed the gap to five 56-51 with 1:54 left in the quarter.  

Irisa Ye pulled the Devils within two 59-57 with a traditional three-point play with eight seconds left.  Jaeda Wildgoose added a layup with just two ticks on the clock to put the Griffins up four 61-57 heading into the final stanza.

A 10-3 flourish by the Griffins to open the fourth quarter again extended the Chestnut Hill lead to double figures 71-60 just three minutes in.  

The Devils scored ten straight points over the next two minutes to pull within one 71-70 following a Sarah Abbonizio layup with 5:02 left. 

 Baskets by Wildgoose and Mary Trossi upped the Griffins lead to five as the Devils struggled to remain close.  

Ye brought the Devils back within one basket, 76-74 with a layup with 1:04 left.  

Trossi added a basket and Cassie Sebold was then fouled and promptly made both free throws with 15 seconds left to give the Griffins and 80-74 lead.  

 Jess Huber made a three-pointer in the final seconds to round out the scoring.

Ye led the Devils with a career-high 18 points while Abbonizio chipped in 16.  Alex Thomas added 12 points and Huber ten to round out the Devils players in double figures.

Wildgoose led six Griffins on double figures with 23 points.  Trossi added 14 while Vicky Tumasz chipped in 13. 

 Cailey Gibson, Shannon Glenn and Sebold had 10 points apiece.   All six players saw at least 23 minutes of playing time on the floor with four of the six logging at least 34 minutes of action.

Jefferson Wins Regular Season Finale Over Holy Family

In the other CACC matchup between playoff bound teams,  Jefferson University  defeated Holy Family University 62-50 to finish the regular season with two straight wins and a 16-3 conference mark and 24-4 overall record.  

 Holy Family finishes the regular season with a 9-10 conference mark and a 10-17 overall record.

Jefferson will be the #2 seed in the south and will host #3 north Dominican College on Wednesday in the CACC quarterfinal round. 

 Holy Family, the #4 seed from the south will travel to play #1 north seed Bloomfield College on Wednesday.  Both games are at 7:00 p.m.

The Rams scored the first nine points before the Tigers got on the board via an Anjalai Hayes layup with 4:41 left.  

Jefferson pushed the lead to 17-9 by the end of the first quarter and 31-24 by halftime.

The Tigers roared back in the third quarter, taking a 36-35 lead with 2:34 left  following two straight three-pointers from Naiyana Sabb. 

  Caitlyn Cunningham countered with a three-ball to put the Rams back on top.  

Hayes tied the game at 38-38 with two free throws before Alynna Williams sank a three-pointer and Kaminski made two free throws to give the Rams a 43-40 lead heading into the final quarter.

The Rams outscored the Tigers 19-10 in the fourth quarter with Holy Family only coming as close as three in the final six minutes of the game.

Kaminski led three Ram players in double figures with 16 points.  Erin Maher and Rachel Day had ten points apiece.   Sabb was the lone Tiger to reach double figures with 13 points.

West Chester Extends Win Streak to 17 Games

West Chester University closed out their regular season schedule with their 17th straight win, a 79-65 decision over Shippensburg University.

The Golden Rams finish the regular season with a 19-3 record in Pennsylvania State Athletic Conference (PSAC) games and a 22-4 mark overall.

  West Chester will be the #1 seed in the PSAC east and will host Kutztown, which knocked off Bloomsburg 73-60 at home Monday night. It was the Bears’ first playoff win in three seasons.

Kutztown has won a school-record 13 home games and the Bear’s overall 18 are their best since 2010.

The quarterfinal game will be at WCU’s Hollinger Field House on Wednesday, February 28 at 5:30 p.m.

Meanwhile, West Chester led Shippensburg wire-to-wire scoring the first nine points and opening up a 21-10 lead after one quarter. 

 The two teams exchanged baskets for much of the second quarter until the Rams produced a 9-2 run to close out the period and take a 42-26 lead at halftime.

The Raiders fought back in the third quarter, holding the Rams to just six points over the first seven minutes and cutting West chester’s lead to five 54-49 with a 23-12 effort in the period. 

 The Golden Rams opened the final quarter with a 12-4 flourish to extend the lead to double figures and never looked back settling in for the 14-point win.

Porscha Speller led four West Chester players in double figures with 18 points. Camden Boehner, Mia Hopkins and Lexi Bruno added 16 points apiece.

Lincoln Secures #3 seed for CIAA Tournament

Meanwhile in Virginia, Lincoln University entered their season finale against Virginia State tied with the Trojans and Chowan University for second place in the north division with a 5-4 division  mark.

  A win plus a Chowan loss would give the lions the #2 seed and a bye in the upcoming Central Intercollegiate Athletic Association (CIAA) Tournament.   

A loss and Lincoln could finish as low as the #4 seed.  

Lincoln fought hard but the Trojans came away with a 64-56 win. 

 The loss placed the Lions in a three-way tie for the #3 seed with Chowan who lost to Virginia Union and Bowie State who defeated Elizabeth City State.

  All three teams finished with  5-5 division records.  Lincoln finished the regular season with a .16-10 mark.

Through conference tie-break procedures, the Lions earned the #3 seed by virtue of their 3-1 head-to-head record against the other two teams. 

 They will play Livingstone College (#6 seed in South) on Tuesday at 12:10 p.m. in Charlotte, North Carolina.

Lincoln’s Brianna Logan broke the school’s single season assist mark with four assists in the game, giving her 113 for the season.  She also holds the single game mark with 12 set earlier this season.

The Trojans scored the final five points of the first quarter after the Spencer three and pushed their lead to double digits 26-15 before settling in for a nine point lead at the half, 31-22.

Virginia State extended their lead to as high as 16 points late in the third quarter and Lincoln trailed 55-42 heading into the final stanza. 

 VSU led by 15 when the Lions started to surge, scoring nine straight points with Logan scoring six of the nine and close within six 59-53 with 2:23 left. 

 After a VSU basket, Logan added a traditional three-point play to pull the lions within five with just under a minute remaining.  

VSU's Aja Robertson made three of four free throws in the final 48 seconds to seal the win for the Trojans.

Logan finished the game with 11 points while Michelle Fitzgerald notched her eighth double-double of the season with 20 points and ten rebounds.
Cheyney Ends Season with a Loss

In Cheyney’s season finale, Briana Hedgepeth scored a career-high 20 points and grabbed 14 rebounds as the Wolves ended their season with a 63-55 loss to Mansfield University.

Cheyney finished the season with a 6-22 record and a 4-18 mark in PSAC games.

Mansfield used a 22-4 run over the first two quarters to erase an early 4-3 Cheyney lead and go up by 17 25-8 with 7:46 left to play in the second quarter and a 30-19 mark by halftime.

The Mountaineers led 42-30 heading to the fourth and 46-37 at the 8:19 mark, when the Wolves went on a 10-1 run and pull within a single point.

 Takayla Ellis and Hedgepeth made layups and Gianni Hill connected from downtown and then found Drazana Vulic for a basket to make it a 47-46 contest with 3:56 to play. 

 Two Mansfield baskets pushed the lead back to five before Hedgepeth again made it a one point game 54-53 at the 2:40 mark.  

Mansfield finished the game on a 9-2 run to secure the win.

Ellis finished the game with 13 points and Yasmine Dorrelan and Hill had ten points apiece.

CACC and PSAC Quarterfinal highlights will be out later in the week as the Division II Championship season commences.

Bob Heller’s Philly WBB Small College Report: The D-3 Edition With Conference Tourneys

By Bob Heller (@Bob_Heller1)

Three conference championships, four area school participating. 

This combination made for an exciting Championship weekend for the Philadelphia Area Division III schools as conference championships were decided in the Colonial State Athletic Conference (CSAC); Centennial conference; and the New Jersey Athletic Conference (NJAC).

We will start with the CSAC Championship on Saturday, featuring the top two teams in the CSAC South Division - Cabrini University and Neumann University.

Cabrini Captures CSAC Title with win over Neumann

The Cabrini women’s basketball team claimed their fifth CSAC title in the last six years, defeating Neumann, 71-64 and thus earning their tenth NCAA Tournament bid in program history.

Sabrina Hackendorn led the Cav with 17 points and was named the MVP of the game.  

Megan Matthews had 15 points and 12 rebounds while Lexi Edwards and Nomi Washington tallied 12 points apiece.  Kate Lannon chipped in ten.

Nafisa Saunders led the Knights with 28 points while Minika Glenn chipped in 19 points and ten rebounds.

Neither team would get much of an advantage on the other throughout the first quarter with the blue-and-white holding an 11-9 lead at the end of the period.   The Cavs ripped off a 15-5 run to take a double digit lead 26-14 before the Knights closed out the half with five straight points to pull within nine, 31-22 at the break.

The Knights came out strong in the third quarter, outscoring the Cavaliers 28-18 and recaptured the lead 40-39 heading into the final stanza.  Neumann used a 12-2 run to close out the quarter.  Saunders had six of the 12 points during the run.

The Knights extended their lead to four 53-49 in the opening minute of the quarter but the Cavaliers charged back with an 8-0 run to lead 57-53 at the 7:26 mark. 

 Neumann would cut the Cabrini lead down to two but that would be as close as they would get with Cabrini making three of four from the line in the final 32 seconds to seal the win.

The Cavaliers are now 25-2 overall and have won 23 straight.  Neumann is 20-8 but did not receive an at-large bid into the NCAA Tournament.

Neumann and Cabrini win Semi-Final Games to Reach Championship

Neumann reached the championship game with a 73-64 win over #2 seed Gwynedd Mercy University on Wednesday in Gwynedd Valley, Pa.

Saunders netted 27 points to lead the Knights while Shauntel Williams added 15 points. Kristen Denoncour grabbed 10 rebounds and netted nine points.

Susan Bossler led four players in double figures for the Griffins, scoring 17 points while also grabbing 12 rebounds.  Bianca Adams added 14 points while Julianna Hoisington chipped in 11.  Chyanne Fine rounded out the double figures scorers with ten points.

The Griffins held a slim 15-12 lead after one period before the Knights exploded for a 24-7 second quarter to take a 36-22 lead at the break.  

Glenn’s layup at the 6:33 mark gave the Knights the lead and triggered a 12-0 run to put Neumann in control.

Gwynedd Mercy clawed their way back into the game and a minute before the end of the third quarter tied the score at 45. A jumper by Neumann’s Lauren Legler before the buzzer gave the Knights a 49-47 lead heading into the final 10 minutes.
The Knights opened the final quarter on an 8-2 run for a 57-49 advantage. 

With less than two minutes left in regulation, the difference was just three points, 64-61 Neumann. 

Back-to-back baskets by Williams and Saunders put the Knights back up by seven. The Griffins hit a three-pointer with 36 seconds on the clock, but Saunders responded right back with a layup. Saunders went 3-for-4 from the line in the final 10 seconds to seal the win and sent Neumann to the Championship game.

Cabrini meanwhile needed a strong fourth quarter to overtake Marywood University and advance to the championship game with a 76-66 win over the Pacers.

Washington recorded a game high 23 points and five steals to lead the Cavs, while Matthews finished with 17 points, seven boards and two steals.

Erika Bistran led Marywood with 21 points and 11 rebounds.

The Pacers took the early lead and secured a 19-15 advantage after one period of play.  Marywood forged ahead 27-18 until the Cavs responded with an 11-1 run to end the half and take a slim 29-28 lead with Matthews making two straight buckets to end the quarter.

The two teams swapped baskets for much of the third quarter until the Pacers ran off an 8-2 flourish to close out the half and take a 57-49 lead into the final stanza.  

Cabrini clawed their way back into the game as the fourth quarter went on with Matthews‘ two free throws knotting the score at 63-63.

  Cabrini then ran off eight straight points to cap a 21-6 flourish and take a 71-63 lead with a minute to play. The Cavs hit 7-of-8 free throw attempts inside the final minute, and 16-of-18 in the fourth quarter overall to cap the 76-66 comeback.

Haverford Falls to Gettysburg in Centennial Title Game

Over in the Centennial Conference, Haverford College reached the championship game against top seed Gettysburg College on Saturday. 

 Both teams battled through the hard fought contest and when the dust settled Gettysburg claimed their second conference title with a 44-35 win.

Sierra Berkel led the Fords with 11 points and seven rebounds. Samantha Wetzel posted five points, seven boards, and four blocks, while Macy Goldbach chipped in eight points. 

With her four-block effort on Saturday night, Wetzel passed Heidi Snyder of McDaniel for the Centennial Conference all-time career blocks record with 272 career rejections.

Tournament MVP Emily Gibbons led Gettysburg with 11 points and 12 rebounds.

Gibbons staked Gettysburg to an early lead scoring the first nine points of the game before Haverford came back with an 8-3 run to close within four at 12-8. 

 Gettysburg finished the quarter scoring five of the last eight points to lead by six, 17-11.

Baskets by Goldbach and Berkel opened the second quarter and brought the Fords within two 17-15.  Gettysburg countered with a 7-0 run to push their lead to nine at 24-15 before settling in for the 25-18 lead at the break.

The Fords shaved three points off the lead in the third quarter, outscoring Gettysburg 11-8 to trail 33-29 after three periods. 

Haverford’s defense held Gettysburg to just two points over the first five minutes of the final quarter while their offense rallied to tie the game at 35-35 with Goldbach hitting the game tying three-pointer at the 5:06 mark.

Following several scoreless possessions by both teams, Ashley Gehrin hit a three-pointer for a 38-35 lead for Gettysburg with 2:04 to go. 

A Haverford turnover gave Kendra Meredith a layup for a 40-35 lead, forcing the Fords to foul to keep pace offensively. Meredith hit four free throws down the stretch to seal the title for Gettysburg.

The Fords, at 21-6, did get at-large berth to the NCAA Tournament.

Haverford Upsets Muhlenberg to Reach Championship Game

Earlier in the week, the Fords knocked off defending champion and nationally ranked Muhlenberg College 60-47 to reach the title game.

Wetzel turned in a spectacular performance, notching her 11th double-double of the season with 21 points and ten rebounds.  

Included amongst her 21 points was the 1,000th point of her career, coming on a layup with 7:16 to go in the game.  

She becomes the eighth player in program history to reach the 1,000 point plateau, joining teammate Berkel who reached earlier this season.  Berkel also recorded a double-double with 12 points and 11 rebounds.

\Haverford took control early, jumping out to an 8-0 lead en route to a 20-9 first quarter advantage.  Muhlenberg pulled within six in the second quarter before the Fords again pushed the lead to double digits, taking a 34-20 lead with 2:34 left in the quarter.  

 Muhlenberg finished the quarter with an 8-4 run to close within eight 36-28 at the break.

Neither team produced much offense in the third quarter with the fords maintaining their eight point lead 43-35 heading into the final ten minutes of action.   Wetzel’s 1,000th point layup gave the Fords a double-digit lead at 49-39. 

 Two free throws from Goldbach pushed the lead to 54-41 with 2:18 left.  

Muhlenberg would come no closer than nine points the rest of the way as Haverford would advance with the 60-47 win.  

Ursinus Falls in Playoff Opener

Ursinus College meanwhile dropped their first round game to Johns Hopkins, 62-56.

Lydia Konstanzer led the way for the Bears with 21 points and 15 rebounds. Aliyah Stephens added 14 points.

Ursinus scored the first nine points of the game and led 24-20 at the end of the opening quarter.   Hopkins closed within two at the break 37-35.

The fifth seeded Bears opened up an eight point lead in the third quarter, 48-40 on a Stephen’s layup with just 2:28 to go in the third quarter before the Bears offense went cold.

\Hopkins went on a 9-0 run to take the lead back early in the fourth quarter before Konstanzer ended the Bears’ scoring draught with a layup with 6:03 left to give her team a 50-49 lead.

  A 9-2 run by the Blue Jays put Hopkins ahead to stay at 58-52 with 2:35 left in the game.

Ursinus finished the season at 13-13.

Montclair State Wins Sixth Straight NJAC Title with Victory over TCNJ

In New Jersey, the NJAC Championship on Friday night featured the top two teams in the league during the regular season, Montclair State University and The College of New Jersey. 

  Montclair claimed its sixth consecutive title with a 58-51 win over the Lions.

NJAC Player of the Year Katie Sire led the Red Hawks with 25 points and 11 rebounds and five blocked shots.

Shannon Devitt, the NJAC Rookie of the Year also recorded a double-double with 18 points and 13 rebounds to pace the Lions.  Jen Byrne added 11 points and 11 rebounds.

Byrne scored the first basket of the game to give the Lions the early lead before the Red hawks countered with a 12-3 flourish to take a 12-5 lead.  TCNJ scored five of the final seven points of the period to trail 14-10 at the end of the quarter.

The Red Hawks pushed the lead as high as eight in the second quarter with the Lions remaining close behind, cutting the deficit to three on several occasions before a Red Hawk free throw in the waning seconds made it a four-point game at the break 28-24.

Devitt’s layup with 20 seconds to go in the third tied the score at 42-42. 

Samantha Famulare later tied the score again at 49-49 with 5:05 left in the game with a pair of free throws.  The Red Hawks however closed the game out with a 9-2 run to take home the title.

TCNJ at 21-6 was happy by Monday, however, earning an at-large bid.

Penn State Abington Falls in NEAC Semi-Final

Penn State Abington meanwhile reached the Northeast Athletic Conference (NEAC) semi- finals with an upset win over top seed Lancaster Bible College 67-54 before bowing out to SUNY Poly in the semi-final on Saturday 58-56.

In the semi-final contest, senior Symantha Marrero had a big day in her final game for Abington, scoring 21 points while Shayna Rodriguez added 18.   Grace Dewey pulled down 17 rebounds.

Seven ties and 12 lead changes highlighted the game, with neither team pulling away from the other for much of the first half.  

 The Nittany Lions did put some distance between themselves and the Wildcats as the second quarter wound down, using a 11-2 spurt to close out the quarter and take a 36-28 lead at the break.

Marrero’s three-ball early in the third gave the Nittany Lions their biggest lead of the game at 41-30 before the Wildcats clawed their way back with a 13-4 flourish the cut Abington’s lead to two 45-43 entering the final period.

The Wildcats scored the first ten points of the fourth quarter to take a 53-45 lead before Rodriguez broke the drought with a basket at the 5:07 mark, triggering a 9-0 Nittany Lion run to reclaim the lead at 54-53 with 2:36 left. 

 The lead changed hands three times in the final minutes with Paige Gallo’s basket  with 23 seconds left giving the Wildcats a 57-56 lead. SUNY Polytechnic added a free throw to go up by two as Abington had one last shot to tie or win. 

 Rodriguez’s shot however was off the mark as the Wildcats hung on to win.

The Nittany Lions finish the season at 14-12.

Next Up:  Who is playing where in the NCAA Division III Tournament along with a Division II regular season  wrap and playoff preview.

Monday, February 26, 2018

The Guru Report, Part 1: Villanova Finishes Third in Big East Ending Creighton Hex While Drexel Avoids CAA Upset

Guru note: So much from Sunday assembled in two parts. Rutgers and Penn State bottoms up in Big Ten is part 2.

By Mel Greenberg @womhoopsguru

VILLANOVA, Pa. — A year ago Villanova capped a strong finish from an ugly start to get to the Women’s NIT semifinals winning four games all on the road.

This time around it seems the Wildcats will get a chance to work their magic in the NCAA after celebrating Senior Day Sunday afternoon with a 55-48 win over Creighton in Jake Nevin Field House to snap a six-game losing streak in the series and claim third place in the Big East behind co-champions Marquette and DePaul.

The visiting Bluejays (17-11, 11-7 Big East), who were tied with the Wildcats (22-7, 12-6), prior to the game, finished fourth. Back in the preseason the two teams were picked third and fourth, their exact place in the final standings, by the conference coaches.

Marquette, the defending tourney champions, who will be the top seed, and second-seeded DePaul were also picked that way.

But in spite of all the accuracy in forecasts at the top of the 10-team league, veteran coach Harry Perretta, now in his 40th season here on the Main Line, said his team’s performance still surprised him.

“They exceeded my expectations. I didn’t think we could win 22 regular season games,” he said.

Villanova also shared the Big Five title with Penn, which upset the Wildcats here scoring just before regulation time expired.

“I think we played a very good game today, defensively,” Perretta said of the win. “We haven’t beaten them in a very long time and they hurt us, offensively. But our defense stepped up today and held them under fifty.

“We didn’t score a lot so if we didn’t play good defense, we wouldn’t have won the game.”

Now it’s on to the conference tournament that opens Saturday at DePaul’s new Wintrust Arena in Chicago where in quarterfinal play Sunday night at 9:30 Eastern time, Villanova will meet sixth seeded Georgetown, which the Wildcats swept in a pair of very closely-fought contests.

“If we had lost (to Creighton), I would have felt it’s a must-win game,” said Perretta in terms of NCAA projections.

The prize for winning the event is an automatic bid to the NCAA tournament but Perretta’s squad, which was ranked for six weeks in the front part of the season, seems destined to land an at-large bid that would end a drought since Villanova’s last appearance in 2012-13.

“Wherever we wind up, we wind up,” Perretta said of this weekend’s action. “We had the best season we could have had. We had a complete team, we had six, seven, eight players we could use in a game.”

Playing likely in their final home game were seniors Alex Louin, Megan Quinn, and Nicolette Juliana, all local products.

“I have no regrets, I’ve enjoyed my time here, I’ve made the best decision in my life,” said Louin, who had 10 points, dealt three assists and grabbed nine rebounds.

“It is super emotional,” Louin said of the special occasion.  “There were about 40 people here to watch me play from high school (Mount St. Joseph Academy).  

“It was really cool to see that.  I took one last look as I was walking off the court today because it will be the last time I see that.  It was an incredible environment to play in, and it gave us the energy to sustain our defense the entire game.”

Mary Gedaka, whose mother Lisa Angelotti is a former Villanova star and just won her 600th game coaching Gloucester Catholic High in South Jersey, came off the bench to score 21 points. Her mother was the Big East player of the year in 1988.

“They isolated me with one player,” said Gedaka of her ability to score. Perretta likes to use her to create mismatch situations.

“My teammates found me really well.  Usually I get isolated on the perimeter so I can go off the dribble, but today O got to work inside a little bit.  That helped us.”

Jannah Tucker also scored in double figures for Villanova collecting 10 points.

Sydney Lamberty was the one Creighton player to break loose, scoring 20 points and grabbing 10 rebounds.

In terms of the entire conference and the pairings, the co-championship for the regular season gives DePaul its fifth consecutive title outright or shared while it’s the first for Marquette.

Villanova became the deal breaker for the top seeds because since DePaul and Marquette split their two games, the difference became Marquette’s sweep of the Wildcats while DePaul, getting trounced here, had a split.

The opening round Saturday has No. 9 Providence meeting No. 8 Butler before No. 7 Seton Hall meets 10th-seeded Xavier. 

Marquette opens quarterfinal play Sunday hosting the winner of the Providence-Butler game before DePaul plays the Seton Hall-Xavier winner. 

Creighton will then meet fifth-seeded St. John’s, which won a tiebreaker with Georgetown by beating Villanova once.

That left the Hoyas and Villanova to meet each other.

If the Wildcats get to the semifinals on Monday they would see the winner of the DePaul quarterfinal game. The championship would be Tuesday and six days later the annual Selection Monday show on ESPN at night would reveal the NCAA 64-team field with the at-large squads being made known as well as the pairings.

Drexel Rally at Towson Keeps Dragons Tied With JMU at Top of CAA

The prosperity Drexel achieved Friday night at home with a double overtime upset of James Madison got soaked with a long spell of perspiration down at Towson Sunday afternoon until the Dragons turned on the heat and rallied to a 62-54 win over the Tigers at SECU Arena in a Colonial Athletic Association game in suburban Baltimore.

Since area rival Delaware was unable to provide help, falling to James Madison 67-56 on the road at the JMU Convocation Center in Harrisonburg, Va., Drexel’s triumph kept veteran coach Denise Dillon’s team in a virtual tie with the Dukes over the rest of the CAA even up in the loss column and one win short.

Drexel (22-6, 14-2 CAA) will get a chance to get dead even Thursday at 7 p.m. when the Dragons visit Delaware at the Bob Carpenter Center in Newark an hour south of home but it is another danger stop because the Blue Hens have vastly improved since Drexel blasted them in Philadelphia back in late December to start the conference schedule.

A Dragons survival in that one leads to the regular season finish on Saturday when they host Charleston 1 p.m. at the Daskalakis Athletic Center while James Madison hosts William & Mary.

Since JMU and Drexel split their season series and each split with third-place Elon, RPI average will be the tiebreaker, a statistic that currently favors the Dragons for the top seed in the CAA tourney, March 7-10.

They already have one perk for the annual postseason extravaganza since it is being held at the DAC, the first time Drexel has hosted the tourney and also Philadelphia being the furthest north the event has occurred.

Getting to 22 regular season wins is a record for the Drexel eclipsing the 21 achieved in 2009 when the Dragons took the regular season and tournament title to their only NCAA appearance.

Should Drexel not emerge as champs next month, the Dragons are still on track for another bid to the Women’s NIT.

Aubree Brown, the Archbishop Wood grad and heroine of Friday night’s win, was the star in this one, also, scoring 16 points and dealing five assists.

Bailey Greenberg had 12 points and 11 rebounds while Hannah Nihill had eight points, the same total as Kayla Bacon, who gained all her scores in the decisive fourth quarter.

Towson (9-18, 4-12) quickly made the outlook for a long afternoon, slowly building a 13-4 lead from the outset.

Things were not much better at the break with Drexel shooting 6-for-30 in the first half but finishing with a lesser deficit at 23-18.

The Dragons finally got uncorked when action resumed, making their first six shots in the third quarter but still trying to fend off Towson on the way to finishing the period 38-37.

But Brown helped the cause again the fourth quarter when Bacon was inspired by the crowd of friends and family from her hometown in nearby Owings Mills, Md.

Up four with less than four minutes left in regulation, Bacon keyed a 6-0 Drexel run to finally provide enough separation to avoid an upset.

Drexel also made a program mark with a 7-1 December, 6-1 January, and 6-1 February making it the first time the Dragons dropped just one game in three calendar months of the season.

Meanwhile, Delaware, which nearly forced JMU into overtime back home at the finish earlier this month, made it close early before the Dukes in a game of eight ties and six lead changes forced a 14-4 run across the middle of the second half to gain a 67-56 victory.

James Madison (19-9, 15-2) has now won 12 straight games over Delaware (17-10, 10-6), which is in fourth trailing Elon by two games and holds its current position by a half-game over Northeastern.

Kelly Koshuta had 16 points for the Dukes, Lexi Barrier scored 14, and Neumann-Goretti grad Kamiah Smalls had all 13 of hers in the second half.

Delaware’s Nicole Enabosi had her 21st double double with 26 points and 12 rebounds. Reserve Kiersten West had 10 points.

“My hat goes off to (JMU coach) Sean (O’Regan) and what he’s continued to do with this program,” said Delaware first-year coach Natasha Adair who previously coached at Georgetown and prior to that was in the CAA at Charleston.

O’Reagan was promoted two seasons ago after longtime coach Kenny Brooks moved down the road to Virginia Tech in the Atlantic Coast Conference.

“We put a lot on Nicole and she doesn’t disappoint,” said Adair. “Her supporting cast was a little down today but it wasn’t for lack of will or effort.”

After Drexel’s visit Thursday, the Blue Hens will finish Saturday at Towson at 2 p.m.

Rider Takes Manhattan

The Broncs concluded regular season play rallying to beat host Manhattan 53-50 in overtime at Draddy Gymnasium in Riverdale, N.Y., to sweep the Jaspers and take fifth place in the Metro Atlantic Athletic Conference tourney, which begins later this week in Albany, N.Y., at the Times Union Center, the site of one of the four NCAA women’s regionals.

This season in Lawrenceville, N.J., it was the Broncs men’s team getting all the attention at Alumni Gymnasium earning the top seed in the MAAC as opposed to 12 months ago when the women’s magical ride saw a tie for first, the No. 2 seed, runner up in the tournament, and a first-ever postseason appearance by the Broncs in the Women’s NIT.

Hit by graduation losses and an influx of newcomers who needed to be involved in the mix, the Rider women (13-16, 10-8 MAAC) fought all the way from a deep deficit in the won-loss record to near .500 and there were a few narrow setbacks that if reversed would have contributed to another winning record.

Manhattan (12-17, 9-9) will be the seventh seed.

The Broncs outscored the Jaspers 9-6 in the extra period.

Rider claimed this one late in the extra period when Kamila Hoskova drove for two and a one-point lead with less than 30 seconds remaining in the extra period. 

The Broncs got a defensive stop and then Lexi Posset hit two foul shots for a three-point lead with four seconds left and the 53-50 advantage held when Lea Favre knocked a shot out of bounds by Rider. 

Johnson grabbed a defensive rebound to end the home team threat.

She finished with 14 points, eight rebounds, two assists, three steals and a blocked shot. Hoskova had 12 points and eight rebounds while Posset had 11 points and 10 rebounds.

Rider will open quarterfinal play in the MAAC tourney Saturday at 2:30 p.m. against fourth-seeded Fairfield. The Broncs and Stags split their two games.

The winner, in the semifinals, would likely face top-seeded Quinnipiac, the defending tourney champion which went unbeaten through the conference and last season in the NCAA tourney advanced to the Sweet 16.

“Stella is one of the most competitive kids I’ve ever coached,” said Rider’s Lynn Milligan. “She refuses to lose. She does whatever it takes to help the team win. She just made plays today and that’s what great players do on the road.

“I thought defensively we executed our game plan really well. It was a grind it out win between two teams with a lot on the line. Both teams really got after it today.

“A huge step for us as a team to win a game like this that has a lot of meaning on the road. I’m extremely happy with our grit and determination.”

And that’s this report.