BROOKLYN, NY 3/16/2013 – The Saint Joseph’s Women’s Basketball team is going dancing. The Hawks will represent the Atlantic 10 Conference in the NCAA Women’s Tournament by virtue of their 47 – 46 won over the Fordham Rams in the tournament championship game in front of 4,456 at the Barclay’s Center in Brooklyn. The win was third Atlantic 1o title for Saint Joe’s with the last title coming in 1999. SJU last played in the title game in 2007. It was a long wait, and a significant accomplishment for this senior class as expressed by senior guard Ashley Prim.
“I’m so excited for our team,” said Prim. “We did it, we did it! This is what the seniors are leaving to the next class, and I’m excited for that.””This is not just for the players we have now,” said Saint Joseph’s Coach Cindy Griffin. “I feel it is for the players that have preceded them, and went to the championship game, and came up empty a little bit. To celebrate with our team and our past team is really special.”
This was not going to be an easy game for the Hawks. The start of the game was totally in Fordham’s favor. The Rams jumped out to a 12 – 0 lead as Saint Joe’s missed their first ten shots and had a turnover. The Hawks did not get their first points of the game until senior guard Ashley Prim made two foul shots at the 14:17 mark. The first basket of the game for SJU was a jumper by Prim just over seven minutes into the game. The Rams on the other hand made 5 of their first 10 field goal attempts including two from beyond the arc by forward Marah Strickland, who led Fordham with a game-high 16 points.
Saint Joseph’s had to rely on defense until they could generate some offense.
“A lot of teams score in bunches, and that was a big bunch at the beginning,” Griffin said. “If we chipped away, we would be able to make a run at it. The defense is solid, and we depend on that when we don’t get the shots we usually get. Chat (Chatilla van Grinsven, team leading scorer) was struggling, Natasha (Cloud) was struggling, we couldn’t get Erin (Shields) the ball. I think this team has a lot of resilience and determination. We refuse to lose.”
An 11 – 4 run midway through the first half got Saint Joe’s to within 3, but Fordham stretched the lead back to ten, and took a 24 – 16 lead into halftime. It was the second lowest scoring half this season for SJU who scored only 16 at Syracuse as shot 21.4% (6 – 28) from the floor. Sophomore guard Natasha Cloud scored 10 of her team-high 15 points in the first half.
The second half was different. The Hawks shot 52.2% (12 – 23) while holding the Rams to 28% (7 – 15).
SJU clawed their way back into the game. Trailing 30 – 22 with 16:50 to play Saint Joseph’s went on a 12 – 0 run. The run was keyed by 5 points by Cloud, and took the lead on a layup by senior forward Chatilla van Grinsven with 12:06 on the clock. The Hawks lead would grow to four points on a three-pointer by Mireia Vila at 34 – 30. Saint Joseph’s held the lead until a three by Fordham guard Abigail Corning gave the lead back to the Rams at 42 – 40 with 3:11 to play. Junior guard Erin Shields responded with her only three-point basket of the game with 2:58 to play. Later, Corning, who scored 12 points in the game, tied it at 45 with another three-point basket with 2:07 to go. Two free throws by van Grinsven gave the lead back to Saint Joseph’s with 1:47 to play. It would be the last points for Hawks, but the held the Rams to only one more point.
That Fordham point came on a free throw by guard Erin Rooney. She made the first, but missed the second. On the rebound van Grinsven got the ball and as she same down appeared to be bumped, then fell out-of-bounds giving the ball back to the Rams with a half-minute left. Fordham looked to get the ball inside to forward Samantha Clark who wound up being guarded by Prim. Clark called for the ball and on the pass was called for an offensive foul with 6 seconds left. A missed free throw by van Grinsven gave the Rams a last opportunity, but a desperation three by Strickland was well short. The horn sounded, and Saint Joseph’s had their title.
“Playing defense will always get us back into the game especially for this team,” said van Grinsven who scored 8 points and pulled down 10 rebounds in the contest. “It shows the fight and determination that we have in our team. We showed that on the defensive end. We got great plays when we needed it to get us back in the game. The team played great and we pulled it out.”
It was a emotional moment for Fordham coach Stephanie Gaitley who coached Saint Joe’s to their other two titles.
“It is emotionally tough because I coached there,” said Fordham Coach Stephanie Gaitley, “There are people on the staff there that I coached. They are a well rounded program and I had a lot of good experiences there. It’s bittersweet becuase of the championships, but that’s what happens when you play the game.”
Cloud was named the Most Outstanding Player of the tournament. In addition to scoring 15 points Cloud grabbed 6 rebounds and handed out 6 assists. The Broomall native credited her teammates for the award.
“I was surprised,” said Cloud. “I’m not usually the one who get the points. I give credit to my teammates. They were the ones who found me. They’re the who I give the award to.”
The Hawks won the game scoring 47 points. The total tied their season-low points scored in a 47 – 45 win against Drexel.
Saint Joseph’s wins, and they know that they will see their name on the screen on Selection Monday.
“Today solidified the bid,” Griffin said. “We are going to enjoy Monday knowing we are in and our ticket’s punched. We are going to enjoy seeing Saint Joseph’s name coming across the line.”
“We have to take it one game at a time because it is one and done now,” Prim said.
Written By: Glenn Papazian
The Atlantic 10 All-Tournament Team
Rateska Brown, Temple
Marah Strickland, Fordham
Erin Rooney, Fordham
Chatilla van Grinsven, Saint Joseph’s
Natasha Cloud, Saint Joseph’s – Most Outstanding Player
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