Duo help Flash secure NEC playoff spot

LORETTO – Sometimes luck is on your side.

St. Francis used a little bit of luck on a 3-pointer by Aisha Brock to jump start its eventual takeover – and 88-83 victory – of its Northeast Conference matchup with Central Connecticut State on Monday night at DeGol Arena.

With the win, St. Francis clinched a spot in the upcoming NEC playoffs.

“Playing Central Connecticut is always such a physical and intense game,” St. Francis coach Joe Haigh said. “We did a good job, more so surviving it, I think, in the second half We played closer to our style of basketball.”

Alli Williams tied her career-high with 40 points, while also ripping down a game-high 15 rebounds for the Red Flash.

Williams took complete control during different stretches as she was able to keep the Blue Devils at bay, and dash their hopes of seizing the game on multiple occasions.

“Alli started to take the game over and kind of changed the tempo of the game,” Central Connecticut State coach Beryl Piper said. “We didn’t have an answer for it.”

Brock nailed back-to-back treys when the score was tied at 25-25. The first, that gave St. Francis a lead they nevered relinquish, hit the front of the rim, bounced up and hit the top of the backboard before coming back down and rattled the rim before dropping through.

“Aisha is a huge x-factor for us,” Haigh said. “When she plays well, when she shoots well, we don’t lose.”

The Flash closed out the half with a 29-17 run to take a commanding 54-42 edge into the locker room.

The Blue Devils wasted little time coming out of the break as they quickly trimmed a 12-point deficit down to three (61-56) as five points apiece from Brooke Bailey and Kaley Watras keyed the run.

Central Connecticut, with balanced scoring, stayed within striking distance of St. Francis as it cut the lead to one (66-65) at the 11:05 mark before Williams went off with nine of her team’s next 14 points to push the SFU lead to 78-68 with 5:26 to go.

Williams, who tallied 17 in the second half, connected on 1-of-2 from the free-throw line at the 3:25 mark of the second half to put SFU up 10 (82-72) once again.

“I think they changed the person who was guarding me,” Williams said. “I kind of just recognized that, and I went left a couple of times, which is rare, but I just played.”

“I saw the lane, and I wasn’t in foul trouble, so I wasn’t really concerned with getting a charge, I just took it to them and happened to make shots.”

CCSU didn’t go down without a fight, though, as Johnna Fisher and Kayla Miller contributed four points apiece to close the gap to three (84-81) with 36.6 ticks left on the clock.

However, Alexa Hayward and Williams knocked down two free throws each to cap off the win.

With the victory, the Red Flash improved to 11-14 overall and 9-5 in the league – good for third place in the standings.

CCSU fell to 9-15 and 3-11 and is losing ground on chances at a playoff spot as it still sits in ninth.

Central Connecticut State jumped out to a 7-2 lead just 1:30 into the contest – keyed by five points from Brooke Bailey.

The Blue Devils got up by as many as eight points (14-6) before the Red Flash came charging back to tie the game at 16-16 on a 3-pointer by Hayward at the 13:05 mark.

“We handled their pressure really well early,” Piper said. “After the first media timeout, we struggled with their pressure a little bit and we had some turnovers at that point, which really affected our scoring.”

St. Francis grabbed its first lead of the game when Williams scored inside at the 10:24 mark to make it 24-23. However, Jessica Babe came down and canned a jumper to put CCSU back on top.

Williams scored 12 of her 23 first-half points in the final 6:51 of the half.?The senior started to exploit the interior defense of the Devils as she continually drove to the hoop for layups over, through and around any defender who stepped in her way.

“Throughout her [Williams] whole career, when another team makes a shot or makes a run at us, she’s been able to stop that run,” Haigh said. “I think she knows she’s got the green light to do a lot of things offensively.”

Rebecca Keegan had a huge impact on the defensive end as she came up with four critical blocks that stuffed out CCSU attempts to draw even closer.

“I haven’t really been playing the best offensively lately,” Keegan said. “So, I tried to change my mentality for this game – just go in and try and to make layups.”

Keegan also posted 12 points, while Hayward registered 17 for the Red Flash.

Babe, who tied for a team-high 10 rebounds, and Miller led Central Connecticut State with 15 apiece, while Watras added 13 and Bailey had 10.

CENTRAL CONNECTICUT STATE (9-15, 3-11): Bailey 4-6 0-0 10, Thomas 2-4 4-4 8, Harrington 0-2 0-0 0, Watras 3-11 4-4 13, Babe 6-15 3-6 15, Miller 5-8 5-5 15, Arbogast 2-10 4-4 8, Makins 0-2 2-3 2, Ferguson 0-1 0-0 0, Epps 0-2 1-4 1, Fisher 3-4 3-5 9, Malone 1-2 0-0 2. Totals: 26-67 26-35 83.

ST. FRANCIS (11-14, 9-5): Stokes 2-4 1-1 5, Williams 12-18 14-19 40, Keegan 6-8 0-0 12, Brock 2-8 0-0 6, Hayward 5-12 3-4 17, Blaine 1-4 2-4 4, Taylor 0-0 0-0 0, Alllison 0-2 2-2 2, Murphy 1-9 0-2 2, Archer 0-0 0-0 0, Thompson 0-0 0-0 0, Phillips 0-0 0-1 0 Totals: 29-65 22-33 88.

Halftime – St. Francis, 54-42. 3-point field goals: Central Connecticut State 5-16 (Watras 3-6, Bailey 2-3, Arbogast 0-3, Babe 0-2, Epps 0-1, Malone 0-1); St. Francis 8-26 (Hayward 4-9, Williams 2-6, Brock 2-6, Murphy 0-3, Allison 0-2). Assists: Central Connecticut State 14 (Watras 4); St. Francis 18 (Hayward 8). Rebounds: Central Connecticut State 44 (Thomas, Babe 10 each); St. Francis 46 (Williams 15). Totals fouls: Central Connecticut State 29; St. Francis 28. Fouled out: Watras. Technicals: Babe, Archer.

Officials – Mike McConnell, Tiara Cruse, James Hawkins.

A – 782