LORETTO - The last time the Sacred Heart and St. Francis women's basketball teams met, the Red Flash held a second-half lead but could not finish off the victory Saturday as Alli Williams was determined not to let that happen again.
The Red Flash held a 10-point lead with 6 minutes to play. However, Sacred Heart made a late run to cut the lead to two points with 3 minutes left in the game. That is when Williams showed her senior leadership. She scored six of the Red Flash's final seven points, all from the free-throw line, had a diving save that kept a possession alive, grabbed a late rebound and stole the ball on the Pioneers' final possession to secure the 89-80 victory.
"It's just part of being a senior," Williams said. "You've been in that situation so many times, and when it is a two or a four-point game it can go either way. They can hit a shot and we can miss and they can take the lead, so you just have to step up and make a play and keep yourself composed. It's just do or die at that time when there's about a minute left, and nothing else matters but taking care of the ball and scoring."
Williams definitely kept herself composed, scoring a game high 28 points. She made 7 of 11 shots from the field and 13 of 14 from the free-throw line. Williams also grabbed a game-high 10 rebounds on a day in which she was honored in a pregame ceremony for reaching the 1,000-rebound mark for her career.
The story early on was Aisha Brock. The sophomore guard scored all 17 of her points in the first half to help the Red Flash build a 48-41 halftime lead. Two of those three treys came on back-to-back possessions midway through the half when Sacred Heart had taken a two-point lead. She also added four points late in the half as part of a 6-2 St. Francis run that allowed the Red Flash to a take a 48-41 halftime lead.
"It's the difference in us winning and losing games," SFU coach Joe Haigh said of Brock's performance. "To win tough games like this, that are basically playoff games, you have to have more than two players scoring for you. Alexa [Hayward] and Alli have done a great job all year. They are one of the highest scoring tandems in the country, but we always need contributions from another person or two. When Aisha comes in and scores 17 that is huge, because Sacred Heart has to guard her and it takes the focus off of these guys [Hayward and Wiliams] for a little bit.We need somebody like that every game. We just need one other person to come in and make shots."
The Red Flash extended their lead early in the second half, only to see the Pioneers use a run to get back into the game. Sacred Heart cut it to two points at 82-80, thanks to an 11-3 run on a layup by Katie Shepard.
However, that's when Williams took over and secured the victory from the free throw line.
"I'm really excited about the way we played today and getting the win," Haigh said. "Sacred Heart is a great team. We know it's like a playoff game, and it's a battle for second place in the conference right now. What I'm really the most excited about is that we won a game that we didn't play our best basketball. We can get better, but we played well enough to win today."
The win, their sixth in a row, moved the Red Flash (10-12, 8-3) into second place in the NEC, one game behind first-place Robert Morris (13-9, 9-2).
The Colonials won a double-overtime battle Saturday over St. Francis Brooklyn, 101-95.
The Terriers (15-7, 6-5) will be at DeGol Arena Monday night to take on the Red Flash. A victory over the Terriers would move the Red Flash one step closer to winning the NEC regular-season title.
SACRED HEART (10-12, 7-4): Kimmel 4-10 1-2 12, Bland 1-3 2-2 4, Williams 5-12 2-3 13, Shepard 5-18 2-2 14, Washington 6-17 9-9 23, Hickey 0-1 0-0 0, Ettienne 5-6 0-0 10, Lopez 2-4 0-0 4. Totals 28-71 16-18 80.
ST. FRANCIS (10-12, 8-3): Archer 3-4 2-4 8, Williams 7-11 13-14 28, Keegan 1-3 3-4 6, Brock 6-16 2-3 17, Hayward 6-13 1-2 14, Blaine 2-5 2-2 6, Taylor 0-2 0-0 0, Stokes 2-3 1-4 5, Murphy 1-5 2-2 4, Phillips 1-1 0-0 2, Bethel 0-0 0-0 0. Totals 29-63 26-35 89.
Halftime-St. Francis 48-41. 3-Point Goals-Sacred Heart 8-26 (Kimmel 3-7, Washington 2-7, Shepard 2-9, Williams 1-2, Hickey 0-1), St. Francis 5-18 (Brock 3-7, Williams 1-2, Hayward 1-4, Blaine 0-1, Taylor 0-1, Murphy 0-3). Fouled Out-Kimmel. Rebounds-Sacred Heart 36 (Kimmel 7), St. Francis 45 (Williams 10). Assists-Sacred Heart 12 (Shepard 6), St. Francis 8 (Williams 3). Total Fouls-Sacred Heart 23, St. Francis 17. A-858.