Haigh has fun watching Red Flash women win

LORETTO – When the St. Francis women’s basketball team fires on all cylinders, there probably isn’t a team in the Northeast Conference that can beat it.

The Red Flash were just that good Saturday afternoon.

The defense was suffocating and the offense took control, and there wasn’t anything Mount St. Mary’s could do about it as the Red Flash pounded the Mountaineers, 83-59, at DeGol Arena on Pink Day.

“We played hard at the beginning of the game, and we played with a lot of energy,” St. Francis coach Joe Haigh said. “I thought we did a great job. It was fun to watch.”

The St. Francis defense was suffocating from the start and forced Mount St. Mary’s into 27 turnovers.

Not exactly the effort Mountaineers coach Bryan Whitten expected.

“We don’t turn the ball over a lot, but the last three games we have – for whatever reason,” he said. “We definitely didn’t expect to turn it over as much as we did tonight.”

It wasn’t just the defense that was clicking for the Red Flash (13-9, 8-3), either.

St. Francis was 20-for-39 (51 percent) from the floor for 48 points in the first half alone.

Five different players hit a 3-pointer – Kia Gibbs had two – as the Red Flash were 6-for-14 (43 percent) from long range in the first 20 minutes.

“We actually made shots,” Haigh said. “One of the referees came over and said, ‘Wow, your kids can shoot the ball.’ But we were playing free. We were playing fast. It was great to see.”

But the real offensive excitement didn’t start until a third of the way through the second half.

With 13:55 remaining in the game, and the Flash already up by 23, Rebecca Sparks ignited the most impressive 8-0 run of the season for St. Francis.

After Sparks found Alli Williams on the offensive end for a layup, Alexa Hayward intercepted the ensuing inbounds play and dribbled twice before dishing a no-look, behind-the-back dart to Hailey Carangelo for the easy lay-in.

The Mountaineers (9-13, 5-6) turned the ball over again, and after a string of quick passes, Williams scored on a nice feed from Carangelo.

And for the exclamation point, Hayward threaded the needle to Williams on St. Francis’ next possession for the easy two.

It only took the Red Flash 1:05 to blow out to a 31-point lead.

Williams finished with 21 points and 10 rebounds for her 16th double-double of the season and 11th straight. Gibbs had 11 points, while each player scored at least two points for St. Francis.

“This is the way we want to play,” Haigh said. “Everyone got in the game. Everyone scored. But we played fast the whole time. The ball was moving around, people were flying around. People were making shots and our defense was great.

“That’s the [run] that stands out in my mind. It was awesome.”

Haigh was admittedly worried about Saturday’s game, especially after Monday’s meltdown at LIU Brooklyn.

Not only that, but Brittany Lilley did not play due to a team violation.

“Mount as a team, I think, is probably just a notch below Quinnipiac as far as putting four shooters on the floor, taking high-percentage shots,” Haigh said. “They’re a very good offensive team, and that worried me coming in.

“I was very worried about this game, especially being down one player. But the other people stepped up and played great.”

St. Francis begins a three-game road trip on Monday at Robert Morris, just two weeks removed from its hard-fought, 72-63 victory over the Colonials.

“It is a huge rivalry game, and usually Robert Morris plays some of its best games of the year against us,” Haigh said. “I don’t anticipate too much different on their part. They are going to try to slow the game down and hold the ball on offense. Last time, we pressed and wore them down, so they’re going to try and stop us from doing that.

“We have to play like we did today. We have to keep the pace of the game up.”

MOUNT ST. MARY’S (9-13, 5-6): Lonergan 4-7 0-0 8, Mathews 4-6 6-7 14, Mann 0-0 0-0 0, Henderson 5-6 1-1 12, Brewer 5-9 2-2 16, Mocniak 0-4 0-0 0, Christie 1-6 1-2 3, Grossett 1-13 0-0 2, Chickey 0-2 1-2 1, Carney 1-1 0-0 3. Totals 21-54 11-14 59.

ST. FRANCIS (13-9, 8-3): Fleming 4-11 0-0 8, Williams 9-17 1-2 21, Keegan 3-6 0-0 6, Sparks 4-10 0-2 8, Hayward 1-5 2-2 5, Carangelo 1-4 2-2 4, Gibbs 4-9 1-2 11, Taylor 2-7 0-0 6, Brock 1-3 0-0 3, Perkins 1-2 0-0 3, Watts 1-2 1-1 3, Doogan 1-4 0-0 3, Phillips 1-3 0-0 2. Totals 33-83 7-11 83.

Halftime-St. Francis 48-29. 3-point goals-Mount St. Mary’s 6-17 (Brewer 4-7, Henderson 1-1, Carney 1-1, Lonergan 0-1, Grossett 0-1, Mocniak 0-1), St. Francis 10-23 (Gibbs 2-2, Williams 2-5, Taylor 2-5, Perkins 1-1, Brock 1-2, Doogan 1-2, Hayward 1-3, Watts 0-1, Phillips 0-1, Sparks 0-1). Fouled out-None. Rebounds-Mount St. Mary’s 39 (Mathews 9), St. Francis 47 (Williams 10). Assists-Mount St. Mary’s 16 (Chickey 3), St. Francis 23 (Hayward 5). Total fouls-Mount St. Mary’s 10, St. Francis 14. A-812.