Saturday, March 16, 2013

2013 NEC WBB Tournament: Final Preview

CHAMPIONSHIP GAME: Sunday, March 17, 2013

#4) Saint Francis Red Flash (17-14, 10-8) at
#1) Quinnipiac Bobcats (29-2, 18-0)

Game Info: TD Bank Sports Center, Hamden, CT

All-Time Series: SFU leads 17-10

2013 Regular Season Results: 1/21: QU 81-69 in Loretto, PA…2/16: QU 61-50 in Hamden, CT

Playoff History: SFU leads 2-0…SFU won 69-62 in 2004 SF and 65-48 in 2005 SF


-14th NEC Tournament appearance (13th straight)
-9-13 all-time NEC playoff record
-2nd NEC Championship Game appearance (0-1 record) – 2006 at SHU, L 69-65
-0 NEC Tournament championships – 1 of 4 NEC teams to never win a title
-2008 & 2013 NEC Regular season champions
-3-2 in NEC playoff games at TD Bank Sports Center
-Home teams (not including ‘neutral site’ games) are 15-6 in the championship round
-#1 seeds are 15-5 in the finals. #1 seeds have won the title 13 of the last 19 years
-4 teams have finished unbeaten vs. NEC & won the title (‘87 MU, ‘94 MSM, ‘04 SFU, ‘09 SHU)

#4) ST. FRANCIS RED FLASH (17-14, 10-8)
-19th NEC Tournament appearance
-41-7 all-time NEC playoff record
-15th NEC Championship Game appearances (11-3 record)
-11 NEC Tournament titles: 1996, 1997, 1998, 1999, 2000, 2002, 2003, 2004, 2005, 2010, 2011
-SFU has won a league record 11 titles while the other 11 NEC schools have 15 combined
-SFU is the last road team to win the NEC Championship, in 2010 at LIU Brooklyn
-Have won 37 out of the last 39 playoff games
-#4 seed has won the NEC Tournament just once, Robert Morris in 1991


Scoring Offense: QU (1st – 71.1), SFU (2nd – 65.9)
Scoring Defense: QU (2nd – 57.7), SFU (11th – 68.1)

Field Goal %: QU (1st - .401), SFU (7th - .379)
Field Goal % Defense: QU (2nd - .363), SFU (11th - .407)
3 point Field Goal %: QU (1st - .355), SFU (7th - .303)


G – Gillian Abshire, QU (5.3pts, 4.2reb, 4.9a)…Nickia Gibbs, SFU (10.3pts, 3.8reb, 2.7a)
G – Felicia Barron, QU (13.6pts, 2.8reb, 2.8a)…Alexa Heyward, SFU (8.0pts, 1.9reb)
G – Jasmine Martin, QU (13.3pts, 3.4reb, 1.4a)…Rebecca Sparks, SFU (3.6pts, 1.8a)
F – Brittany McQuain, QU (11.3pts, 8.4reb, 1.5a)… Shene Fleming, SFU (6.5pts, 6.5reb)
F – Camryn Warner, QU (7.0pts, 4.4reb, 1.2a)…Alli Williams, SFU (17.7pts, 10.8reb, 2.4a)


QU: Tricia Fabbri (18th season: 273-242)
SFU: Joe Haigh (1st season: 17-14)


Five months ago the 12 Northeast Conference women’s basketball programs opened up their preseason full of aspirations, high hopes, and optimism. The ensuing four month long college basketball regular season would trim the field down to eight. The NEC Tournament would then cut the field down to four, and then eventually to the final two. By the time we put our heads to the pillow on Sunday night we will be left with just one…one team left standing, one team headed to the NCAA tournament, and one champion.

The Quinnipiac Bobcats road to the championship has been a dominant one. They became the sixth team to run the table in the NEC regular season, winning conference games by a margin of about 17 points, and only being in a game decided by less than three possessions just once. Their single goal has always been March 17th, the date of the NEC Championship Game. Now March 17th is finally here. As players told me today during NEC Front Row interviews, coming all the way with this team and getting this far only to falter is not an option. Quinnipiac’s only two losses this year were to Georgia Tech, who defeated Sacred Heart in last year’s NCAA Tournament, and Jenn Rizzotti’s Hartford team. The Bobcats have not tasted defeat since the December 16th contest against the Hawks.

From the time when the team traveled overseas to Italy, on a 10 day basketball tour over the summer, Coach Tricia Fabbri tinkered with the idea of playing everybody and giving the entire roster a chance to contribute. Bringing back all put two players from last year’s roster, their depth has been such a major factor and decisive advantage for just about every game this season. So much attention is given to their starting five of Abshire, Barron, McQuain, Warner, and Martin but it’s their “Gold Rush’s” effectiveness and ability to slide right in without the team missing a beat that allows them to do what they do. Lisa Lebak is a rock solid, veteran point guard who can bring the ball up quick, distribute, and shoot. Sam Guastella, who has found her rhythm since missing 12 games due to injury, made some of the biggest plays in the final minutes of the semifinal against Mount St. Mary’s. Her blocked shot and offensive rebound on a missed free throw were crucial to sealing the win for her team. Ellen Cannon, Katie Carroll, and Nikoline Ostergaard are all valuable pieces who could be starting on many other teams, but play their current role to perfection on this Quinnipiac squad.

The Bobcats won both regular season meetings against the Red Flash this year. In their first game out in Loretto, the Bobcats defensive pressure was relentless, forcing 31 turnovers off of 20 steals. Felicia Barron poured in a career high 28 points with seven steals to lead QU to their first win in Loretto since 2007-08. In the rematch, the Bobcats struggled shooting in the first half (28.6% and 0 for 10 from behind the arc) and fell behind by five at the break. This was one of only seven games this year that QU trailed at the half. Down by six with 10:58 remaining, the Bobcats would go on a 15-0 run, grabbing a nine point lead that they wouldn’t give up. Barron once again paced the squad with 18 points. The Red Flash were held to just 29% shooting from the floor for the game.

On the other side, the Saint Francis Red Flash underwent a roller coaster road to get themselves back into the final for the 15th time in the last 20 years. All was well at the halfway point of the season as the Red Flash stood at 7-2 in league play and were all alone in second place in the NEC standings. Coach Joe Haigh commented in our sit down interview for Sunday’s NEC Front Row Live pregame show that the team had some chemistry issues that served as a major speedbump. The team lost former NEC Tournament MVP Brittany Lilley as well, leading to a 3-6 finish over the final nine conference games. One major issue was the inconsistency of the offense. First team all-NEC performer Alli Williams would get her points, but the team’s search for a secondary scorer would prove to be the difference between wins or losses. For example, Kelly Doogan would net 35 points against FDU, but hasn’t recorded more than six points in the four games since. Freshman Rebecca Sparks scored 27 points in the semifinal against Sacred Heart, but it was only the third game this year she’s finished in double figures scoring. Alexa Heyward drained 28 points with seven three’s on January 28th against Robert Morris, but has only two double digit scoring games since, neither game recording more than 11 points. The point is, Alli Williams should get her points on Sunday, but SFU’s ability to find a complimentary scoring option will be one of their big keys in the final.

The Red Flash did manage to turn their season around before it was too late. With the team trailing in the final minute of their quarterfinal game against CCSU (a team that had just beat them in the regular season finale a few days earlier), Alli Williams would score the game winning layup in the final 30 seconds and then net two more free throws to seal the win. In the semifinals against Sacred Heart, the team got out to an incredible start that surprised even themselves. After getting blown out in two head to head meetings against Sacred Herat by more than 20 points each, and only averaging 53 points for the entire games, SFU recorded 46 points in the first half and led by 20. Their impressive win would be their first at the Pitt Center over the Pioneers since the 2005 season. The team has plenty of confidence that they are coming together right now at exactly the right time, and that on Sunday, anything can happen.


SCHOOL                    TITLES       LAST
Saint Francis              11        2011

Robert Morris              4         2008
Mount St. Mary’s         3         1995
Sacred Heart              3         2012
Fairleigh Dickinson     2         1992
LIU Brooklyn               1         2001
Monmouth                   1         1987
Wagner                       1         1989   
Bryant                         0         -------
Central Connecticut    0         -------
Quinnipiac                  0         -------
St. Francis Brooklyn   0         -------


2012 -- #1 Sacred Heart def. #3 Monmouth, 58-48 (Ericka Norman, SHU)
2011 -- #1 Saint Francis def. #2 Monmouth, 72-57 (Brittany Lilley, SFU)
2010 -- #5 Saint Francis def. #2 LIU Brooklyn, 77-68 (Britney Hodges, SFU)
2009 -- #1 Sacred Heart def. #3 Saint Francis, 74-66 (Kaitlin Sowinski, SHU)
2008 -- #2 Robert Morris def. #4 LIU Brooklyn, 86-75 (Chinata Nesbit, RMU)
2007 -- #2 Robert Morris def. #3 Sacred Heart, 68-66 (Chinata Nesbit, RMU)
2006 -- #1 Sacred Heart def. #2 Quinnipiac, 69-65 (Amanda Pape, SHU)
2005 -- #1 Saint Francis def. #3 Robert Morris, 65-50 (Beth Swink, SFU)
2004 -- #1 Saint Francis def. #3 Monmouth, 70-55 (Tonjee Ward, SFU)
2003 -- #1 Saint Francis def. #7 UMBC, 58-41 (Beth Swink, SFU)
2002 -- #1 Saint Francis def. #2 LIU Brooklyn, 74-54 (Karen Hewitt, SFU)
2001 -- #3 LIU Brooklyn def. #1 Mount St. Mary’s, 70-61 (Tamika Dudley, LIU)
2000 -- #1 Saint Francis def. #6 Wagner, 74-60 (Jess Zinobile, SFU)
1999 -- #2 Saint Francis def. #4 Monmouth, 88-76 (Jess Zinobile, SFU)
1998 -- #1 Saint Francis def. #3 Wagner, 74-49 (Mary Markey, SFU)
1997 -- #1 Saint Francis def. #2 Monmouth, 69-56 (Jess Zinobile, SFU)
1996 -- #2 Saint Francis def. #1 Mount St. Mary’s, 83-75 (Mary Markey, SFU)
1995 -- #1 Mount St. Mary’s def. #2 Saint Francis, 80-61 (Nikki Schroyer, SFU)
1994 -- #1 Mount St. Mary’s def. #2 Saint Francis, 78-67 (Susie Rowlyk, MSM)
1993 -- #2 Mount St. Mary’s def. #4 Marist, 82-61 (Diana Matula, MSM)
1992 -- #2 Fairleigh Dickinson def. #1 Mount St. Mary’s, 78-55 (Barbara DeShields, FDU)
1991 -- #4 Robert Morris def. #6 Wagner, 69-61 (Maebeth Schalles, RMU)
1990 -- #3 Fairleigh Dickinson def. #1 Mount St. Mary’s, 70-65 (Cathy Panos, FDU)
1989 -- #1 Wagner def. #2 Robert Morris, 66-60 (Cynthia Quinlan, WC)
1988 -- #2 Robert Morris def. #1 Monmouth, 63-60 (JoAnn Beatty, RMU)
1987 -- #1 Monmouth def. #3 Fairleigh Dickinson, 92-65 (Linda Wilson, MU)


Thursday: Semifinal recap/highlights & Championship Game quick glance

Friday: Top 10 Championship Game Storylines

Saturday: Full Championship Game Preview

Sunday: Post Game Recap

*The Championship Game will be on Sunday at 5pm on ESPNU. We’ll have exclusive pregame coverage on NEC FRONT ROW LIVE presented by Pilot Pen, with myself and former Seton Hall women’s basketball head coach Phyllis Mangina hosting from our set inside the TD Bank Sports Center, starting at 4pm on NEC Front Row. Once the game goes final, we’ll then be back on the air for all of the postgame reaction and celebration on another edition of FRONT ROW LIVE.

Here is a little preview of what we have coming up on Sunday’s NEC FRONT ROW LIVE pregame show:

-Interviews with head coaches Tricia Fabbri and Joe Haigh. Questions include: How does this year’s QU team match up with the last two NEC unbeatens (2004 SFU and 2009 SHU)? & What was the cause of SFU’s midseason stumble and how did they come out of it?

-Both coaches were mike’d up for Saturday’s practice. On the pregame show we’ll give you an All-Access inside look at the final preparations for both teams leading into Championship Sunday.

-Interviews with QU’s Jasmine Martin and SFU’s Alli Williams. Questions include: What has it been like on this journey with this team towards history? & Do you think you had a Player of the Year season?

-Road to the Championship: Highlights of how each team made it to Championship Sunday

-Commissioner Noreen Morris live on set

-“What would it mean to win the NEC Championship?” video featuring comments from Sam Guastella, Lisa Lebak, Boo Abshire, Nickia Gibbs, Shene Fleming, and Kelley Doogan.

-Plus keys to the game, starting lineups, and predictions

Then don’t forget to tune back in to NEC FRONT ROW LIVE following the NEC Championship Game for the postgame show. The postgame will feature: stats, highlights, analysis, postgame press conferences, the all-tournament team announcement and presentation of the championship trophy, plus the winning coach and tournament MVP live on set!

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