High-scoring Flash survive

LORETTO – When Sacred Heart’s Gabriella Washington knocked down a pair of free throws to put her team up seven with 38.8 seconds to go in her team’s Northeast Conference quarterfinal with St. Francis, the Red Flash could have folded – figuring the odds weren’t in their favor.

Instead of giving up, SFU played the foul game on defense, while making good on its opportunities on the offensive side of the ball.

The third-seeded Flash not only battled back to send the game into overtime, but did so again in the first extra session before pulling away and sealing the game in the second overtime with a 132-124 victory over the sixth-seeded Pioneers at DeGol Arena on Sunday afternoon.

“I don’t know what happened in the game because we shouldn’t be here and [be] happy right now,” St. Francis coach Joe Haigh said. “This is a game that we probably should have lost a couple of times.”

“It’s amazing that we didn’t give up. It show’s so much heart and guts out of our players. We beat a great team. I feel bad for Sacred Heart also, because they played a great game. They made great plays, great shots at the end. I still don’t know what happened. We made enough plays to get into overtime, and then enough plays to get into the second overtime. Then these two [Alli Williams and Alexa Hayward] would not let us lose today.”

St. Francis moved into Wednesday’s semifinal matchup at No. 2 seed Mount St. Mary’s, which advanced with a 75-66 win over Wagner.

“It’s a shame somebody had to lose today,” Sacred Heart coach Jessica Mannetti said. “I couldn’t have asked for a better effort and a better game, actually, to be a part of. It was unbelievable, the energy and the excitement that the playoff atmosphere creates.”

The 256 combined points are the second most (behind Kentucky-Baylor’s 263 scored in a four-overtime affair in December) in NCAA women’s Division I history.

In addition, Williams tied her career high with 47 points, and she led all players with 17 rebounds.

Washington set a new career and Sacred Heart high with 47 points of her own while ripping down 10 boards. Meanwhile, Hayward also reached a new personal best with 43 for the Flash.

The entire game was a see-saw battle from start to finish with 22 lead changes and 12 ties. St. Francis’ largest lead was at 10 after it came out of the gates with a 10-0 run. Sacred Heart’s biggest edge was seven on a couple of instances.

Washington’s free throws had SHU up 100-93. Hayward answered with a driving layup, then Corissa Archer followed that with a steal that led to Williams getting fouled and making good on two free throws to trim the lead to 100-97.

“It didn’t look good so we had to foul,” Haigh said. “We were pressing. I think we did a great job making it tough for them to inbound the ball down the stretch.”

Hannah Kimmel, who tallied 19 points, and Williams both knocked down 1-of-2 shots from the charity stripe before the Pioneers turned the ball back over to the Flash on a 5-second inbounds violation.

Hayward hit an acrobatic off-balance shot in the lane with 11.7 left to pull her team to within one, 101-100.

Katie Shepard made the second of a two-shot foul with 9.1 to go for Sacred Heart. Hayward then took the inbounds and drove the length of the court, down the left side of the lane before dishing off to Williams who laid it off the glass to knot the game with 1.3 remaining in the game.

“I can’t lie, we were down by seven I was thinking, ‘wow, this is the last time that I’ll ever play here,'” Williams said. “For my teammates to step up the way they did, and I don’t know how they did it – how they came through – but I am so appreciative for a second chance.”

“I think, playing with Alli for so long, I kind of know that she’s always going to be around,” Hayward said. “It looked like I had the lane, but then Alli’s girl helped off and helped onto me. I just saw her [Williams] over there out of the corner of my eye and knew she was going to make it.”

Williams buried a 3-pointer just 8 seconds into the first overtime, but just like the rest of the game, the first five extra minutes went back and forth with neither team grabbing an advantage of more than three points.

Again, trailing by three (115-112) with 20.1 ticks to go, Hayward again drove the lane and hit a tough leaner while getting fouled by Washington with 14.4 left.

“I know that Gabby Washington, she doesn’t want to foul because they need her in the game,” Hayward said. “Whenever I drove in, I went into her a little bit and she kind of nudged back It was on my mind to just go up strong and hit it.”

She canned the free throw to tie things up and send the two teams into a second extra session.

The Pioneers’ last lead of the game (117-116) came when Shepard connected on a jumper at the 4:25 mark.

Hayward delivered again as her trey gave SFU the lead for good just 21 seconds later.

Washington, who was being face-guarded by Hayward for most of the second half-plus, scored the Pioneers’ final seven points, while Hayward and Williams put in 13 of St. Francis’ 17 points in the final overtime.

“When they were denying me the ball, I started to get a little jittery and uncomfortable,” Washington said. “Even though we played a pretty good game, it still wasn’t enough to win.”

For the game, the Red Flash took care of the ball as they only turned it over nine times in the 50 minutes. Meanwhile, the Pioneers doubled that number – seven of which came on steals by SFU that led to 15 fast-break points.

“Last game, I think, we set a record as we only turned the ball over four times,” Haigh said. “Now, we play into a double-overtime game like this with nine turnovers, and we’re the same team that had 43 turnovers and set a record back in December. So, we’ve come a long way.”

St. Francis placed, in addition to Williams and Hayward, three others in double figures as Bridget Murphy registered 12 points, while Archer and Aisha Brock had 11.

Adaysha Williams, who helped put SHU back in front midway through the second half, finished with 21 points, while Lerae Ettienne added 11.

The two teams were even in rebounds (48-48) and points in the paint (46-46). SHU’s bench outscored SFU’s, 21-18, but the Flash had 18 second-chance points to 17 for SHU.

“St. Francis did a great job hitting some big shots at the end, some big shots at the end,” Mannetti said. “They really, really made us play as perfect as we could, and unfortunately, some turnovers cost us.”

SACRED HEART (12-18): Bland 3-3 1-2 7, Ad. Williams 8-16 4-5 21, Shepard 3-10 1-2 9, Kimmel 6-15 5-6 19, Washington 16-25 11-11 47, Hickey 2-4 2-2 8, Ettienne 5-6 1-2 11, Lopez 0-2 2-2 2, Abela 0-1 0-0 0. Totals: 43-82 27-32 124.

ST. FRANCIS (15-16): Archer 3-5 5-8 11, Al. Williams 14-24 15-21 47, Keegan 0-3 2-2 2, Brock 4-11 0-0 11, Hayward 16-33 7-8 43, Blaine 0-1 2-2 2, Taylor 0-1 0-0 0, Stokes 2-2 0-0 4, Murphy 4-11 3-3 12, Phillips 0-1 0-0 0. Totals: 43-92 34-44 132.

Halftime-St. Francis, 53-47. Regulation-Tied, 102-102. First overtime-Tied, 115-115. 3-point field goals-Sacred Heart 11-28 (Washington 4-9, Hickey 2-4, Shepard 2-6, Kimmel 2-8, Ad. Williams 1-1); St. Francis 12-35 (Al. Williams 4-8, Hayward 4-15, Brock 3-8, Murphy 1-3, Taylor 0-1). Assists-Sacred Heart 19 (Shepard 8); St. Francis 17 (Keegan, Brock, Hayward, Murphy 4 each). Rebounds-Sacred Heart 48 (Kimmel, Washington 10 each); St. Francis 48 (Al. Williams 17). Total fouls-Sacred Heart 29; St. Francis 25. Fouled out-Ad. Williams, Kimmel, Ettienne, Keegan. Technicals-None. Officials-Pastor Torres, Terry Funk, Fidel Gonzalez. A-710.