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Strictly Come Dancing: St. Francis, NEC

Who? The Red Flash of St. Francis University. For the love of all that is sweet and holy, don't mistake them for their conference foe St. Francis College, which is located in Brooklyn, because if they don't take offense at being mistaken for a school that won all of two games, an SFC assistant coach would like a word with you.

Where? Loretto, PA, home to the Southern Alleghenies Museum of Art.

When? Sunday the 14th, in Brooklyn, NY.

Upset? Yes. Mostly. While the opening rounds were played in Loretto, allowing the fifth-seeded Red Flash to knock out top seed Robert Morris, they had to come out to Brooklyn to play on second-seeded LIU's home floor.

RPI: 155

SOS: 187

How? Short form: Brittney Hodges scored 23 points and St. Francis never looked back, winning 77-68.  Long form?  Well, read on after the jump...

The last time I went to a conference championship game, I was in college and it was the CUNYAC title game, and my alma mater won the game on two free throws after Staten Island threw the inbounds pass straight out of bounds. It wasn't half as exciting as this.

We got to the box office around 1:30 to make sure we were able to get tickets, and we started the line. The ticket office was a little disorganized, because I don't think they were ready for this many people to show up to a women's game. I was a little disconcerted when I saw so many people from St. Francis come by in their red, white, and black, especially as they guided people to various sections depending on their affiliation. They just kept coming... and coming... and coming... and then the LIU fans started arriving. It got crowded in a hurry. My legs are still cramped.

Much love and thanks to the young lady handing out LIU t-shirts at the entrance. I'd been dying for some swag, and that saved us a good thirty bucks, which we'll most likely use in the WNIT somewhere. (Or the NCAA. Oh, please, Almighty Committee, give St. John's Norfolk to Memphis or Dayton.)

I do wish the anthem singer hadn't been the same guy I'd heard in three different arenas, who gets worse every time I see and hear him.

If the Red Flash went deeper than three into their bench, then the LIU announcer didn't bother to mention who they were. Shené Fleming played briefly in the second half when foul trouble became a factor for one of St. Francis's starting guards. Brittany Lilley brought major offense off the bench, especially in the second half. Allison Smith went scoreless, but she played a good bit, so she must have been doing something right.

Brittney Hodges. Brittney Hodges. Holy crap, Brittney Hodges. I figured she was going to be the one to watch when the ESPN cameraman was following her closer than her own shadow during shootaround, but she went OFF in the first half. At one point, SFU had 23- and she had 14. LIU got on her better in the second half, but that opened up the lane and the midrange jumper for Samantha Leach, who made the most of her opportunities. Quinessa Johnson was in foul trouble for a chunk of the second half, and I don't recall her being much of a factor. Daly also got loose in the second half, with a little help from her friends. Janie Killian was a difference-maker with her length and size- she's 6-4, and LIU had no way to deal with her. That didn't keep them from trying alley-oop passes over the top.

I really like Krystal Wells, and not just because she thanked us for coming to one of their games earlier this season. She's a firestarter on the defensive end, with a reservoir of energy that never seems to run out, and her hustle made a lot of good things happen for the Blackbirds. Justine Stevenson was just not there today. I mean, she was physically present, but except for one rebound, I can't remember one good thing she did- and the pass after the rebound was stolen! Tamika Guz played briefly, proved that she couldn't shoot for love nor money, and was sat back down on the bench.

Paging Connie James. Her head was just not in this game. Too many sloppy passes, too much bad ballhandling- I think she let the pressure get to her a little. Heidi Mothershead showed up for the game and played well on defense- one brilliant sequence that forced an over-and-back comes to mind- but her shot didn't join the party. Shame. That might have been useful. Chelsi Johnson, while I applaud your confidence in your jump shot, it's a little overstated. Don't stand there and watch. Follow your shot. She went after everyone else's shots hard, though. Ashley Palmer... I always go "I'm not impressed" when I watch her play, but then she puts up 20 points and I don't know how many rebounds, and I just go wow. Kiara Evans, while she got a little too intense sometimes, did a good job of knowing that she needed to make with the offense because Mothershead wasn't hitting and they weren't getting much from the bench.

Refs. WTF, man? An elbow to the chin isn't a foul but a reach is? Iím not blaming the refs for the loss- I think LIU managed to screw up homecourt advantage all by themselves thanks to missed free throws and a couple of players not showing up. But I don't want players to get hurt, and it got close to that line. Put it this way: sometime after Janie Killian's elbow introduced itself to Ashley Palmer's chin, Palmer ended up on the floor. When Killian offered her a hand up, Palmer rolled away and got to her feet by herself.

I feel sort of like I cheated on St. John's today. I got more into this game than I have any other, because LIU needed the support and it was a conference championship, with a chance to Dance on the line. Don't get me wrong: when St. John's makes a conference championship game, you'll hear me across the state line, I'll be so loud. But LIU is my second favorite team and I wanted them in SO badly. I may have bruised my thigh. If anyone from the Red Storm reads this, it was just warm-up for if I can get to the tournament with you guys next week. :D

Originally, when it was announced that the halftime show was a cheerleading squad from PS 307, I threw up a little in my mouth, because elementary school cheerleaders are made of EW. But these kids were really, really good. They were doing pyramids and lifts that the team at St. John's doesn't even try. (So yes, when the SFU cheerleaders were a bit less than crisp with their routine, our response was "Our fifth graders are better than you!")

As frustrating as it was, I do have to give props to the SFU crowd for traveling. That was a long haul to make.

I really hope LIU makes the WNIT. They deserve at least a look. And this team needs that kind of post-season experience.