Quinnipiac stops Flash in NEC final

HAMDEN, Conn. – The St. Francis women’s basketball team lives and dies by its ability to shoot well, particularly from beyond the arc.

Sunday afternoon was an off-night for the Red Flash at the TD Bank Sports Center.

And that carried over to every facet of their game.

Quinnipiac took advantage and crushed St. Francis, 72-33, in the Northeast Conference championship.

“It was a crazy night. We’re disappointed we didn’t play better,” St. Francis coach Joe Haigh said. “We knew coming in that Quinnipiac is a great team. They do a great job. They defended extremely well and rebounded well. You’re not going to beat anybody scoring 33 points.

“We were here, we had a shot. We didn’t get it done. It’ll be motivation for next year. We plan to be back.”

The Bobcats won their first tournament title and punched their first ticket to the NCAA Tournament while denying the Red Flash their 12th crown.

“I’m so thrilled for the program to win its first NEC championship,” Quinnipiac coach Tricia Fabbri said. “The final seconds took forever in my mind.

“Being able to watch ‘Quinnipiac’ go up on the screen in the field of 64 is my dream come true.”

Alexa Hayward gave St. Francis (17-15) an early 3-2 lead – it’s lone advantage – on a 3-pointer from the corner, but for the next seven minutes, the Red Flash couldn’t find nylon.

Part of the problem was that Quinnipiac took Alli Williams out of the game.

The junior matched a season-low with two points. She had 10 rebounds.

“When things are going well, it’s easy to feed off the positives,” Williams said. “When it’s going bad, it’s just as easy feeding off of it. So when we missed our first couple shots, it’s hard to come back from that. Especially when Quinnipiac is making shots.”

“In practice, coach always talked about, ‘Just don’t leave her side, know where she is on the 3-point line,'” NEC Defensive Player of the Year Felicia Barron said of limiting Williams. “We had to guard her the best we could. It was great to hold her to two points because if she would have gotten off, it would have been a game. It was great to shut her down and mess up their whole offense.”

In fact, nearly everyone struggled from the field.

St. Francis was just 13-of-55 (24 percent) shooting on the night after a dismal first half where the Flash trailed, 32-15.

They were a miserable 2-for-22 (9 percent) from long distance.

“We missed a lot of shots and didn’t play our game,” Haigh said. “It was a disappointing night for us.”

“It takes a good team to come back from a 17-point deficit at halftime,” Williams said. “We were confident we could do it, we just never got the spark to do it and it just kept getting worse.”

Quinnipiac (30-2) never lost control and dominated at both ends of the floor.

The Bobcats forced the Red Flash into 20 turnovers, won the rebounding battle (54-38), and had 21 assists on 27 field goals.

Their success offensively was epitomized by a handful bank shots, including one of Lisa Lebak’s first-half 3-pointers that kissed the window before going in.

“We always want to set the tone on defense with [Barron] with her pressure,” Fabbri said. “How we defend in the half court, that forces pace for us. We were dominant in the first 20 minutes and that allowed us get our pace on the offensive end.”

For St. Francis, is was quite the opposite.

“Everything went wrong today,” Haigh said. “Shots didn’t go that normally go. Bounces – all that stuff. I don’t know what to say. They did a great job and we had an off day.”

Tournament MVP Brittany McQuain had a team-high 14 points. She was also a defensive force in the paint, effectively altering shots and filling up passing lanes.

“A huge stress going into this year was our defense,” McQuain said. “When we’re on the same page defensively, we’re unbeatable.”

Hayward led St. Francis with eight points, while Kelley Doogan had six.

The Red Flash could still get a berth in the WBI Tournament, but this loss will likely sting for months.

“We were excited and confident, but I think a lot of the energy might have been nerves,” Williams said. “We were ready, but the fact that we were on TV or that it was the championship might have psyched us out.”

“It’s a long season. We’ve had some games like this,” Haigh said. “This is the worst one. We’ll treat this as something to learn from. It’s disappointing for the seniors, but hopefully for this program, it’s just another step.”

Game notes: The 15 first-half points tied a season-low for St. Francis. The Red Flash trailed, 38-15, at the break at Bryant on March 2. … It was the worst loss against a conference opponent since Jan. 25, 1987 when St. Francis lost to Monmouth by 41 in the pre-NEC league, the ECAC Metro. … St. Francis’ 33 points is the lowest point total in an NEC Tournament game. It was also the largest margin of victory in any NEC Tournament game. … Quinnipiac’s 30 wins are a league record. … The Bobcats played their final game as members of the NEC. They are making the move to the Metro Atlantic Athletic Conference next year.

ST. FRANCIS (17-15): Fleming 1-4 0-0 2, Williams 1-7 0-0 2, Gibbs 1-4 0-2 2, Sparks 1-8 1-2 3, Hayward 2-8 2-2 8, Carangelo 2-2 0-0 4, Taylor 0-2 0-0 0, Brock 0-2 0-0 0, Perkins 0-2 2-4 2, Keegan 2-4 0-0 4, Watts 0-1 0-0 0, Doogan 3-7 0-0 6, Phillips 0-4 0-0 0. Totals 13-55 5-10 33.

QUINNIPIAC (30-2): Warner 2-2 0-0 4, McQuain 6-11 2-4 14, Barron 3-13 2-2 9, Martin 3-7 2-2 8, Abshire 2-6 2-4 6, Lebak 2-4 0-0 6, Napolitiano 1-6 0-0 3, Carroll 1-1 1-2 3, Cannon 0-2 2-2 2, Ostergaard 3-10 0-4 7, Guastella 4-7 0-0 10. Totals 27-69 11-20 72.

3-point goals-St. Francis 2-22 (Hayward 2-8, Gibbs 0-1, Sparks 0-1, Watts 0-1, Phillips 0-1, Taylor 0-2, Brock 0-2, Doogan 0-2, Williams 0-4), Quinnipiac 7-24 (Lebak 2-2, Guastella 2-4, Napolitiano 1-4, Barron 1-5, Ostergaard 1-5, Martin 0-2, Cannon 0-2). Fouled out-None. Rebounds-St. Francis 38 (Williams 10), Quinnipiac 54 (Abshire 8). Assists-St. Francis 10 (Williams 2, Gibbs 2, Hayward 2), Quinnipiac 21 (Abshire 6). Total fouls-St. Francis 17, Quinnipiac 14. A-1,472.