BG grad has big day in SFU victory

LORETTO – The St. Francis women’s basketball team needed a quick confidence boost Saturday afternoon after getting blasted at Notre Dame earlier this week.

Connecting on the first two 3-point attempts definitely helped.

The Red Flash hit 10 3-pointers, and Alli Williams had a career-high 30 points as St. Francis held on to beat pesky Bryant, 81-76, in the Northeast Conference opener for both teams at DeGol Arena.

“That’s good to see,” St. Francis coach Joe Haigh said of his team’s success behind the arc. “Seven were in the first half. It would have been nice to get more than three in the second. It’s good to get on the board shooting the basketball well. It was a big help. We need that type of shooting going forward.

“[Alli is] kind of the focal point of our roster right now. She’s a big part of what we do. She’s a big focus of what defenses do, also. To have the defense focus on her and still score 30 is great for her.”

But Williams’ 3-pointer with 2:19 left in the first half marked a milestone for the junior.

The Bishop Guilfoyle product became the 22nd player in St. Francis history to reach the 1,000-point plateau when the second-chance kick out play gave her her 1,002nd point of her career.

She also grabbed 10 rebounds for her seventh double-double of the season.

“It’s pretty exciting,” said Williams, who needed only 10 points entering Saturday’s game to reach the milestone. “I kind of had to smirk when they announced it [during a timeout]. I couldn’t do it without my teammates, coaches and everyone that has helped me along the way. I can’t really take all the credit, but it feels really good.

“I didn’t really notice it when it happened, but then I looked up [on the scoreboard] and saw [that I had] 12 points. I was like, ‘Oh, I must have gotten it at some point.'”

The Red Flash (6-6, 1-0 NEC) had their hands full the entire game.

They let eight-point leads twice vanish into Bulldog leads, but managed to rebuild momentum each time.

“I think one of our strengths is that we are fighters,” Bryant coach Mary Burke said. “We got down, I don’t think we were playing 100 percent, turned the ball over a lot against the press and just played really inconsistent.”

“The great thing about this team and the way that we responded was when we did give up the lead, we didn’t hang our heads and quit or anything,” Haigh said. “We came back as strong as ever.”

And the Flash did it with their bench.

Brittany Lilley didn’t see much playing time due to early foul trouble, and Alexa Hayward sat out much of the game with a back injury after getting two quick 3-pointers.

But freshman Brooklyn Taylor helped fill that void offensively and scored 11 points on three 3-pointers and a pair of free throws.

“She started to sneak on the court in the away games,” Haigh said of Taylor’s increased playing time. “It’s great to get a boost like that off the bench. She’s been working hard and getting better.

“To get contributions in an up-and-down game from people off the bench was big. Rebecca Sparks, Brooklyn Taylor – those girls were good off the bench. We were able to get by with [Hayward] out.”

Naana Ankoma-Mensa had a monster game for the Bulldogs (4-7, 0-1), scoring 25 points and grabbing 22 rebounds – both career-highs for the junior.

“She’s a workhorse,” Burke said. “She plays major minutes for us. She’s producing consistently for us. Today I felt an advantage for us was her athleticism in the post. Even though she is keyed on, she finds ways to score. She put up huge numbers, and got big rebounds. I don’t think there’s much else we can ask her to do.”

“It’s a great job for us fighting through everything. We bent, but didn’t break. That’s the main thing. It’s great to come away with a win.”

Game notes: Haigh did not know if Hayward would be available for Monday’s game against Central Connecticut, but did say that her back “got bumped,” and “was stiff coming out after halftime.” … Kia Gibbs had 15 points, six rebounds and five assists, while Shene Fleming had eight points and 10 rebounds for St. Francis. … Jenniqua Bailey had 18 points and seven assists for Bryant. … The Red Flash host Central Connecticut on Monday.

BRYANT (4-7, 0-1): Ankoma-Mensa 10-15 5-7 25, Bailey 8-14 2-4 18, Schissler 3-12 1-2 9, Douglas 1-9 2-2 4, Rucker 2-6 0-0 4, Hinck 0-1 0-0 0, Whittington 1-4 0-0 3, Cardamone 2-3 1-1 5, Winder 0-0 0-0 0, Leahy 3-5 2-2 8. Totals 30-69 12-17 76.

ST. FRANCIS (6-6, 1-0): Fleming 4-10 0-3 8, Williams 9-18 10-11 30, Gibbs 4-11 5-6 15 Lilley 2-8 0-0 5, Hayward 2-5 0-0 6, Taylor 3-8 2-2 11, Brock 0-0 0-0 0, Sparks 0-2 0-0 0, Keegan 3-6 0-0 6, Doogan 0-0 0-0 0. Totals 27-68 17-22 81.

Halftime-St. Francis, 44-35. 3-point goals-Bryant 4-16 (Schissler 2-9, Cardamone 1-1, Whittington 1-4, Rucker 0-1, Hinck 0-1), St. Francis 10-23 (Taylor 3-6, Gibbs 2-2, Hayward 2-3, Williams 2-6, Lilley 1-6). Fouled out-None. Rebounds-Bryant 50 (Ankoma-Mensa 22), St. Francis 34 (Fleming 10, Williams 10). Assists-Bryant 16 (Bailey 7), St. Francis 20 (Lilley 6). Total fouls-Bryant 20, St. Francis 15. A-426.