PHILADELPHIA, PA. 11/29/2017 – Coming into the season one of the goals of the Temple Owls was to defend their Big Five Championship. This is a different team, a younger team. Yet the Owls are halfway to another title holding off the Saint Joseph’s Hawks in their usual battle 69 – 66 at McGonigle Hall behind 24 points and 13 rebounds by Tanaya Atkinson, her 6th double-double in seven games, and a career-high 12 points by guard Deja Reynolds.
“We’re just not talking about Big Five battles, we are talking about young guys playing in Big Five games against upper classmen that have been around,” said Temple Coach Tonya Cardoza. “It was a team effort, but it is a big deal when you have freshman getting experience playing in Big Five games. And you have a great leader in Tanaya keeping them composed.”
Atkinson is the leader of this team on and off the court. In addition to the play of the senior guard the Owls got contributions from freshman forward Mia Davis who recorded a double-double with 15 points and 13 rebounds. Freshman guard Emani Mayo played tough defense in 38 minutes.
Winning this game would require the Cherry and White to defend the three-point line as Saint Joe’s came into the game shooting 56.7% from beyond the arc led by forward Sarah Veilleux and guard Alyssa Monaghan. The Hawks would only convert 1 of 10 three-pointers.
“Our main goal was to as much as possible limit Sarah and Alyssa, they’re both great shooters, and we had to do a good job on them,” said Temple Coach Tonya Cardoza. “They only got one three. That was a big deal. That was key for us to make sure we defended them.”
The game was a back and forth affair. Saint Joseph’s had the better of the early going leading 16 – 9 after one quarter. Temple got back into the contest and the teams went into halftime tied at 30. The third quarter was tight with three points being the largest lead by either team.
The fourth quarter began with the Owls leading 50 – 48. The lead stretched to as many as 7 at 60 – 53 with 6:10 to play on a jumper by freshman guard Desiree Oliver. The Hawks fought back getting a lead on a layup by forward Chelsea Woods at 66 – 65 at the 19 second mark.
After a timeout Temple got the ball to Atkinson who drove to the basket and got the lead back with 16 seconds left.
“For me it was a matter of staying composed,” said Atkinson. “Even when the score was changing, we were up and down. I told them (the team) to keep fighting and stay composed.”
Saint Joe’s set up the offense, but after a turnover and then a scramble for the ball sent Reynolds to the line for two free throws. She coolly made them both. SJU got a last shot from Veilleux that missed.
“It’s something we do in practice all the time,” said Reynolds about the foul shots. “I took it with confidence.”
The Hawks (5 – 1, 0 – 1) suffered their first loss of the season. Forward Amanda Fioravanti scored a career-high 22 points and a season-high 9 rebounds. Senior forward Adashia Franklyn and Veilleux added 12 points each. Woods led the team with 11 rebounds. Saint Joe’s plays another city series game on Saturday at rival Villanova.
The Owls (5 – 2, 2 – 0) host Harvard, the third of a seven-game home stand.
“It was good for our guys to be involved in that type of game because in Big Five that’s what its like,” Cardoza said.
Written By: Glenn Papazian