Photo by USA Today Sports.
Just the Facts, Ma'am: St. Joseph's overcame an eight-point halftime deficit, turning up the defense and heating up the offense to take the Atlantic-10 title over Fordham, 47-45. Natasha Cloud had 15 points and six assists for the Hawks, and Chatilla van Grinsven had eight points and 10 rebounds. Marah Strickland had 16 to pace the Rams. For tight squeezes, forgotten souvenirs, horned helmets, hard picks, and pivotal moments, join your intrepid and congested blogger after the jump.
Good evening, everyone! We're coming to you on tape delay from the Barclays Center in Brooklyn, New York, host of the A-10 tournament final between Fordham and St. Joseph's.
The A-10 did a pretty good job turning around as fast as they did between the men's semis and the women's final- the men's semis ended about forty minutes before the scheduled tip of the women's game. I think they're encouraging people to stay to make the crowd look bigger- we've already been asked once if we wanted to move down. No, thank you, I like being able to see the big screen and to see the plays as they develop.
So far Fordham's showing great support, which doesn't surprise me, since all you have to do to get here is get on the D and keep going. And I like the arena. There's an abruptness to it that's very New York- once you're through the lines, BANG, the court's right there, so you can get caught up as soon as you walk in the building (though I'm sure that security is a touch more thorough at Nets games).
Great anthem to open things up. The crowd has been loud for both teams. Great atmosphere. Fordham got a 12-0 hole shot on the Hawks, and they're up 24-16 at the half, but I'm worried about the way they ended the half, and the way they've been running the clock down over and over again- Griffin is a good enough coach that I can see her team taking advantage of that in the second half.
Ilze Gotfrida got physical in the post. Surprising from a Euro. I don't remember much of Mireia Vila did other than the one foul.. Cindy Griffin really relied on her starters.
Ashley Robinson started the second half; I don't remember if she started the first half. She was a long-armed defensive presence who flicked away rebounds and affected shots. I wasn't terribly surprised when the one foul she committed was a stupid one; it does sort of come with the territory of the name. Erin Shields's shots looked good coming off her hands all the time, but she didn't always get the roll, though sometimes she did. She reminds me a lot of her sister around the face. I think Ashley Prim let the one bad foul call early in the game get into her head a little bit. She still stayed active on defense, though. Chatilla van Grinsven got stopped up by Fordham switches, but on the other end she was a defensive mis-match for pretty much anyone she was up against- they had her on Erin Rooney or Arielle Collins, and you could tell that the extra height was affecting the Rams' view of the court. She's good. She's probably kicking herself about the missed free throws, though. Natasha Cloud ran the offense well, finding her teammates and going for loose balls.
St. Joe's adapted very well in the second half. I think in the first half they remembered they were no longer playing on their home floor and were in fact playing in New York. In the second half, they held it together and made the big plays that their team needed.
Charlotte Stoddart was great on the boards. I like her hustle. I don't know if she was the player on the bench who was getting the defense chant started, but if she was, then I like her even more, because the Fordham bench was really loud. The Rams leaned heavily on their starters- I think Christina Gaskin and Emily Tapio only came in when Arielle Collins and Samantha Clark fouled out.
Erin Rooney had some very good drives that didn't end the way they should have- one rolled off the rim, one got blocked- either of those could have been the difference. I like her instincts but I'm not sure if she's an A-10 player. I really like Samantha Clark, though; she's only a freshman, but there's something in her build and her style of play that reminds me of Erin Buescher. She needs to hit her chippies and stop thinking so much about the three-point line, but it's rare to see a mid-major player be as physical as she is; usually a big player like her ends up at a mid-major because she won't bang. Arielle Collins and Abigail Corning were both very active on defense, with Collins also drawing the duty of pounding the ball for fifteen seconds until Fordham started their offense. Marah Strickland started the game off hot, then drew a lot more defensive attention and started taking some bad shots.
I really don't know what to think about Fordham's offense. It reminds me unpleasantly of Villanova's offense, except that they don't have the three-point shooters that Villanova has. It reminds me just as unpleasantly of Rutgers's offense, but they don't have players who can create their own shots like Rutgers once did. Time of possession does matter in basketball, but not if you don't do anything with the ball after you control it.
The officiating in this game was decidedly interesting. When it starts out with the kind of arm hooking that would make Plenette Pierson blush and ends with an offensive foul called off the ball from across the court, that's the only word I can think of. Both coaches yelled at the refs a bit, and I don't blame them.
People around us kept running away for some reason. Look, I know I'm not in Fordham gear, and I know I'm loud, but I'm going to go hard for my city. Ne York has to represent, especially when dealing with Philadelphia.
A-10 legends honored at halftime, which was cool, followed by Drums of Thunder, which was very cool. I miss those kids.
Got to meet some Butler fans and welcome them to the Big East; should have done the same to the guy in the Xavier cap.
I still don't know what the offensive foul call was on Samantha Clark, but it essentially decided the game, especially when Fordham hesitated on the intentional foul. How you make the call from the other side of the floor, I will never know.
We're watching the awards ceremony now. St. Joe's is running around with their hats and shirts. All-championship team includes a kid from Temple, Rooney and Strickland from Fordham, and van Grinsven and Cloud from St. Joe's. Rooney looks like she wants no part whatsoever of her little trophy. Cloud is MOP of the A-10 tournament. That is a really shiny championship trophy. They announce each member of the winning team, then get their rings. Huh, I didn't think rings were that soon.
Okay, that's the one classy thing the St. Joe's band and students have done all day- they're chanting Cindy Griffin's name as she gets her ring.
And there goes the net, to a chant of "The Hawk Will Never Die!" I think the students are going to chant each player's name as she gets her cut. But we didn't stay for the whole thing, because the first person to go up didn't quite know how to cut the net- she started from the bottom and tried to cut vertically as her team shrieked directions at her.
The rolls in this game were truly bizarre for both teams. I guess you can expect that when two Jesuit schools play shortly after the selection of the first Jesuit pope. Shots were halfway down and went out, shots were all over the rim and in- it was crazy. And it was for both teams evenly, as if God wanted to prove that He didn't play favorites.
It wasn't the prettiest of games, but it was a solid game and worthy of a championship.