Sunday, February 3, 2013

STOP #5: SFU 64, SFC 53

STOP #5: Pope Physical Education Center, Brooklyn Heights, NY
Saturday, February 2, 2013 - 2pm

SFU RED FLASH 64 (12-8, 7-2), SFC TERRIERS 53 (7-13, 4-5)  


Two schools who share the same name took to the hardwood on Saturday afternoon in Brooklyn Heights, NY. Both teams, St. Francis University and St. Francis Brooklyn College, entered the 2012-13 campaign with new coaches and a bunch to prove. The Red Flash, in their first season under Joe Haigh, are looking to rebound after getting bounced from their two year stint as champions in the first round of last year’s conference tournament. SFU entered the day four wins better this year, than they were through 19 games last year. On the other side, the Terriers are two years removed from a winless conference campaign and last year went 3-15 vs. the NEC. In just one off season John Thurston has taken virtually the same group of talent and completely changed the culture and attitude of the Terrier program. SFC entered the afternoon one win shy of doubling their win total from all of last season.
The game started out fast, which is just the way the Flash likes to play it. SFU implemented their full court pressure defense, but SFC appeared to be well prepared. They calmly made the correct passes to find the open player and get the ball across the half court stripe. On the offensive end, the Flash have a bunch of players who can pull a quick trigger, Alli Williams, Alexa Heyward, and Brittney Lilly to name a few. SFU, who may be the best passing team in the NEC, quickly moved the ball up the floor and in one or two passes were able to unleash a shot. At one point, around the 14 minute mark, I timed five consecutive SFU possessions, and found that they were, on average, getting off shots around only seven seconds into the 30 second shot clock.

SFC sophomore Sarah Benedetti thrived in the quick pace, pouring in 14 points in the game’s first 13 minutes, with four threes. In all, Benedetti would record 17 points, with five three pointers, in the first half to lead St. Francis Brooklyn to a 30-29 halftime lead. The Terriers held their largest lead at 30-24, before the Red Flash tallied the final five points of the stanza to go into intermission down just one.

Both teams shot the ball exceptionally well in the first half, with the Flash shooting 42.9% from the field while the Terriers made buckets at a 44.4% clip. Notably absent from the scoring sheet was the leading scorer in the NEC, Alli Williams from SFU. For the second straight game she was shut out in the first half, only seeing two shot opportunities and missing both.

After a sharp shooting first half, both teams would struggle to regain their stroke. By the first media timeout of the second half at 15:32, the Red Flash were shooting 1 for 6, while St. Francis Brooklyn was 2 for 8. The team’s would trade the lead back and forth five times in the first seven minutes, however one of the turning points was Jessica Kaufman getting in foul trouble. Kaufman played a big part in not allowing Alli Williams to get going, however Kaufman aggressively got tied up with Alexa Heyward going after a rebound, picking up her third foul just 42 seconds into the second half. When she returned off of the bench at the 12:21 mark, it took less than two minutes for her to commit her fourth foul on a Williams basket, allowing the Red Flash junior to convert a three point play.

Kaufman wouldn’t return for good until there was just 5:29 left in the contest. During the time she was off the floor, the Red Flash outscored the Terriers 20-13. As mentioned, after going the first 29:20 on Monday night with no points against Robert Morris, Williams had a scoreless first half for the second straight game. Despite going nearly three quarters of the game on Monday scoreless, she still would finish with 21 points. For the second straight outing she would once again score points in bunches late. After her first bucket, a layup with 15:31 to go in the game, Williams would go on to score 10 of her next 13 points with Kaufman off the floor. The other three points were a result of that three point play she would convert on Kaufman’s fourth foul. The Red Flash would establish a double digit lead for the majority of the remainder of the contest, and would go on record a 64-53 victory.

As I’ve mentioned the previous two games I’ve covered with St. Francis Brooklyn, they are a gritty team with a positive attitude and great hustle. But on this day, the Red Flash would be just too strong for the Terriers to pull off the upset. SFU outscored SFC 35-23 in the second half, holding the Terriers to just 7 for 25 shooting, and blanking them (0 for 5) from behind the arc. SFU made terrific adjustments, especially on the defensive end. They forced 18 turnovers, scoring 20 points off of those turnovers.

Alli Williams and Shene Fleming took the ball straight to the basket and dominated the paint in the second half. Each scored 17 points on the afternoon, with Williams recording her 15th double-double with 17 points and 10 rebounds. Benedetti had a season high 24 points, four off of her career high, while Jaymee Veney quietly put together a solid showing with 12 points and 6 rebounds.

This game was a fun one to watch, especially with the fast pace of the first half. Each half featured five lead changes. But in the end, the Red Flash showed why they are currently the second best team in the Northeast Conference…good shooting, pressure defense, great passing and command of the transition game, controlling the boards, dominating the paint, and making the right adjustments. For the Terriers, they’ve come so far this season that it feels almost wrong to write about them falling back on any moral victories, but being able to hang with a team like SFU for three quarters of the contest should be a positive sign going forward.  

SFU won their eighth straight game in this “Battle of St. Francis” series. They have won a remarkable 14 straight games against the NEC’s two Brooklyn based schools combined. They will look to improve that streak to 15 when they meet the LIU Brooklyn Blackbirds on Monday night. The Red Flash reach the halfway point of the season in sole possession of second place in the NEC standings at 7-2, two games better than their 5-4 record through nine conference games last season. The Terriers fall to 4-5 in NEC play and are locked in a three way tie for seventh place with the FDU Knights and the Robert Morris Colonials. Looming large is Monday night’s matchup with Robert Morris, which could have major implications in playoff tiebreakers down the road. 


Box Score


1. Alli Williams, SFU – 17 points, 10 rebounds, 2 assists, 3 steals, 31 minutes

2. Sarah Benedetti, SFC – 24 points, 4 rebounds, 5 three point field goals, 35 minutes

3. Shene Fleming, SFU - 17 points, 8 rebounds, 2 steals, 29 minutes


It was Athletic Alumni Day at the Pope Physical Education Center in Brooklyn Heights, NY. To celebrate, the Terriers were unveiling special banners, listing the members of the school’s 1,000 point career scoring club, during halftime. Usually when you’re talking about history it’s the Red Flash who draw all of the attention. This time around, with the Terriers having such a terrific season, it was a lot of fun to be able to look back and recognize some of the greats who suited up for the Brooklyn based St. Francis team for a change. There are 12 current members of the SFC 1,000 point club, led by Karen Erving and her 1,929 career points. I was lucky enough to have covered three of the 12 during my 10 years with NEC women’s basketball: Tiffany Hill, Kara Ayers, and the 6 foot 8 inch Katja Bavendam. At halftime, the banner was unveiled and all of the 1,000 point alumni who were on hand posed for a picture underneath. Following the women’s game, the men’s “Battle of St. Francis” took place where a banner was unveiled honoring the members of the men’s 1,000 point club as well.


ROBERT MORRIS 47, LIU-BROOKLYN 41 – The Colonials overcame a huge second half Blackbird surge to hold on for a key road win. RMU led by 13 points in the second half, but LIU-Brooklyn managed to tie things up at 41 with just over a minute to go. Freshman Ashley Ravelli drained the game winning three to lead her squad to victory. Ravelli led the Colonials with 17 points. Artemis Spanou recorded her 15th straight double-double with 11 points and 14 rebounds.

QUINNIPIAC 74, WAGNER 56 – The Bobcats rolled to their 10th straight win overall and their ninth straight win to start conference play. QU is the seventh team since the 1998-99 season to start a year at 9-0. QU won the battle of the boards 46-33, and 19-5 on the offensive glass. They also forced 23 turnovers which led to 24 points, and dished out a conference season best 23 assists. The Bobcats led 43-31 at the half, and broke the game open with a 16-2 run midway through the second half. Felicia Barron led QU with 16 points on the afternoon.  

BRYANT 58, MONMOUTH 55 – The Hawks fought back from a 12 point halftime deficit, but just couldn’t overcome the Bulldogs in the end. After starting 0-5 in conference play, Bryant has won three out of their last four. With nine seconds left, Hawk sophomore Sara English scored a basket while drawing a foul, to cut the deficit to one. She would miss the ensuing free throw. On the other end, Danielle Douglas would convert her free throws to clinch the victory. Naana Ankoma-Mensa led the Bulldogs with 18 points and 16 rebounds, while Douglas netted 12.

FAIRLEIGH DICKINSON 55, CCSU 53 (OT) – The FDU Knights needed to work a little extra, but managed to end a four game losing streak, with a victory Saturday against the Blue Devils. Erika Livermore supplied the game winning points with a 15 foot baseline jumper to put FDU ahead 54-53 with two minutes to go in the bonus session. She would then make one of two free throw attempts to give the Knights a 55-53 edge with 1:20 to go. The Blue Devils had multiple chances to tie in the final 80 seconds, but saw a shot blocked, a jumper missed, and a desperation heave fall short. Livermore led the Knights with 19 points and 11 rebounds, while Jaclyn Babe led CCSU with 14 points and 10 rebounds.

SACRED HEART 58, MOUNT 50 – Pioneer junior Blair Koniszewski netted a new career high with 26 points to lead the Pioneers to their fifth straight win. Koniszewski shot 5 for 8 from the field, including 4 for 6 from three and a perfect 12-12 at the charity stripe. Koniszewski would score 26 of the 28 bench points for the Pioneers. On the defensive end, SHU would force 20 turnovers, converting 19 points off of those Mount miscues.


Next Saturday I will be on vacation. However even though I won’t be able to attend any games in person, I will still provide a weekend preview and a recap of the NEC Saturday slate, as usual, here on the NEC WBB Road Trip Blog.

As we navigate through the second half of the conference season, virtually every game is important and carries crucial playoff implications. If I was on the road next week, more than likely I would have been headed to New Britain, where the Blue Devils welcome in unbeaten Quinnipiac. Back on January 28th CCSU gave the Bobcats all they could handle before eventually falling 82-73. Jaclyn Babe scored 30 while Felicia Barron recorded 25. Now the Blue Devils will get a second shot at QU, on their own home court at Detrick Gym.

Last Monday, the Terriers won their first “Battle of Brooklyn” game since 2009. On Saturday they will host the Blackbirds in a rematch, looking to sweep their inter-borough rivals for the first time since the 2004-05 season.

Elsewhere in the NEC, the Red Flash and Mountaineers (two programs who have combined to win 14 NEC Championships) will meet in Loretto, the Robert Morris Colonials will play host to the Wagner Seahawks, and the Bryant Bulldogs will welcome in the red-hot Sacred Heart Pioneers.


Player of the Half-Year: Alli Williams, SFU
The St. Francis junior has been the most dangerous scorer so far this season. She leads the league in scoring with 19.2 points per game and has recorded nine straight double-doubles, with 15 overall. Williams has also averaged 21.3 points per game in conference play.

Rookie of the Half-Year: Jordyn Peck, Wagner
Peck has taken home three NEC Rookie of the Week awards this year. As a first year player out of Shaker Heights, OH, Peck is the only rookie leading her team in scoring. She stands as the Seahawks leading scorer at 11.4 points per game.

Defensive Player of the Half-Year: Felicia Barron, QU and Ericka Norman, SHU
Felicia Barron is the reigning holder of this award, and quite frankly, she hasn’t done anything to warrant losing it. She is once against toward the top of the conference in steals for a Bobcat defense that thrives off scoring points from opponents turnovers. Erika Norman is the current league leader in steals, while a case could be made for Alli Williams as well due to her ability to create turnovers from the forward position.

Coach of the Half-Year: Tricia Fabbri, QU and John Thurston, SFC
Both coaches deserve to be recognized for two separate reasons. Navigating a team that has such tunnel vision toward a championship through a long regular season is one of the toughest things to do. The Bobcats are good, and they know their good, but Coach Fabbri has done a fantastic job in keeping these Bobcats focused and motivated through the first half of the season.

On the other side, John Thurston has done an amazing job guiding the Terriers. While they do have some new additions, such as two time Rookie of the Week Leah Fechko, this is basically the same roster Thurston inherited that went 4-25 just twelve months ago. Thurston has brought a new energy to this Terrier program, and has SFC in position to double their 2012 win total and make the postseason for the first time since 2008.

All-NEC First Half 1st Team
F – Alli Williams, SFU
F – Artemis Spanous, RMU
G – Jaclyn Babe, CCSU
G – Felicia Barron, QU
G – Gabrielle Washington, SHU

All-NEC First Half 2nd Team
F – Naana Ankoma-Mensa, BRY
F – Erika Livermore, FDU
G – Alysha Womack, MU
G – Jasmine Martin, QU
G – Sydney Henderson, MSM

All-NEC First Half Rookie Team
F – Honor Duvall – LIU
G – Jordyn Peck, WC
G – Leah Fechko, SFC
G – Lou Mataly, RMU
G – Ashley Revelli, RMU

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