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Seton Hall Thanksgiving Tournament: Daisha Simmons scores 30, Natasha Cloud leads St. Joe's

Thoughts and observations from the semifinal round of the Seton Hall Thanksgiving Tournament.

Picture is Phyllis Mangina (L) and Pat Coyle study the action as Antonia Smith looks for an opening during a win on Saturday.
Picture is Phyllis Mangina (L) and Pat Coyle study the action as Antonia Smith looks for an opening during a win on Saturday.
Photo by Ray Floriani.

SOUTH ORANGE, NJ - The results from Saturday's doubleheader at ‘historic' Walsh Gymnasium:

Seton Hall 75, St. Peter's 45

On the surface, Seton Hall had an easy time with St.Peter's, winning their semifinal 75-45. A deeper look reveals there were tests the Pirates were facing, standard to be met.

Earlier in the week the Pirates blew a lead and struggled to defeat Kennesaw State at home.

"We learned from that (Kennesaw) game," Seton Hall coach Tony Bozzella said. "Don't take anyone lightly and don't let leads slip away."

The Pirates raced out to a 34-18 half time lead and kept the pressure and intensity on.

"We decided before the game we were going man-to-man," Bozzella said. "No zone, no full court pressure -- simply man."

The idea was to get the Hall back to the fundamental concept of basic man to man defense.

Another positive for Seton Hall was the three guards rotation. Daisha Simmons was able to pick to the slack as Ka-Deidre Simmons struggled offensively. Daisha Simmons scored a game high 30 points as Ka-Deidre shot 3-for-14 for 8 points.

"With the three guards," Bozzella said, "if someone has an off night someone else ‘has their back'."

Bozzella was more than gracious in commending a rebuilding St. Peter's, decidedly overmatched.

"They are well coached," Bozzela said. "Defensively they took us out of a few things. They stayed in front of us on defense and limited our transition opportunities."

Half court execution, on offense and defense, was more than ample for Seton Hall.

Pat Coyle is in her second year of a major rebuilding job at St. Peter's. The veteran mentor is encouraged by the progress. The wins are not easy to come by but as Coyle said, "I think we executed a little better today like we are supposed to."

Execution and poise are priorities. Coyle agreed with Bozzella's assessment of St. Peter's doing what they needed to do to stop the Hall transition.

There are also some talented newcomers on board. One, Alyssa Velles, a 5-9 freshman guard, paced St. Peter's with 17 points. The true challenge with the new faces is integrating them into the system.

"The experienced players know what we want," Coyle said. "The freshmen need experience to learn the system and they are getting it."

The losses are one thing -- daily improvement in practice and in game situations is Coyle's primary objective.

"We want to be playing our best when the bulk of our (MAAC) conference schedule begins in January."

St. Joe's 64, St. Francis Brooklyn 42

"I think it was great for us coming off two losses," St. Joe's coach Cindy Griffin said following a 64-42 romp over St. Francis Brooklyn in the second semifinal. "Our defense was solid."

Their ability to utilize size and get the ball on the low post was also a factor.

"We have experience down low and wanted to take advantage," Griffin said. "Sarah (Fairbanks -- 10 points, 4 boards) and Ashley (Robinson -- 8 points and 8 rebounds) were factors."

Again, that defense deserved note, limiting St. Francis Brooklyn to five second half field goals. On the game St. Francis' offensive efficiency was 68. The second half they scored 14 points with an efficiency of 44.

"We are still finding ourselves," Griffin said. On this afternoon, the Hawks made considerable progress toward Griffin's objective.

St. Francis Brooklyn battled for a half, trailing only 33-28, before being worn down by St. Joe's in the second half. Any remote opportunity of establishing an inside game was negated by the Hawks' size. The second half it seemed John Thurston's club tried to subsist on a diet of perimeter shots, and came up empty. St. Francis attempted 44% of their shots from three the final twenty minutes hitting just one of eleven (9%). As noted previously, St. Francis scored just five field goals following intermission.

The defense had difficulty matching up with St. Joe's inside. And at the point guard spot as well. Especially in that second half, the Hawks repeatedly got out on the break triggered by Natasha Cloud.

"Her (Cloud) size allowed her to see the floor, throw a long pass and get the break going," Griffin said. The six-foot senior guard finished with 16 points, 7 assists.

For St. Francis Brooklyn, they had one double digit scorer in Eilidh Simpson with 12 points. The senior guard shot 4 of 6 from the floor. Terriers to hit over 50% from the floor.

Player of note: St. Joe's Sophomore Kathleen Fitzpatrick played 31 minutes scoring 8 points. The 5-9 guard shot 3 of 8 (2 for 5 from three), adding 3 assists and a steal. "She (Fitzpatrick) is a three point threat," Griffin said. "She's steady, knows the game and is a ‘St. Joe's player'." A native of Drexel Hill, Pa., Fitzpatrick's mom, Ellen Shields was a Hawk teammate of Griffin's and was in attendance at Walsh.

A homecoming of a sort for Phyllis Mangina. The St. Peter's second-year assistant under Coyle played for Seton Hall and was head coach there for over two decades. She had a number of well wishers on hand in her return to Walsh with St. Peter's.