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Flash in need of a reboot

LORETTO — On Monday afternoon, Saint Francis was playing its first-ever game against Merrimack, the newest edition to the Northeast Conference, and the Red Flash found out quickly that the Warriors aren’t just any rookie Division I team.

SFU had no answer on the defensive side for Merrimack’s Denia Davis-Stewart, and they simply couldn’t get comfortable with the Warriors’ zone defense as the Red Flash trailed the entire game in a 71-56 loss at DeGol Arena.

“We’ve got to get back to the drawing board,” Saint Francis coach Keila Whittington said. “Working on offense and understanding what it takes to stop people defensively.”

Davis-Stewart, who was a matchup nightmare for Saint Francis, began the contest with a 3-pointer on a kickout at 9:07 of the opening quarter.

SFU was able to tie the game at six on a Sam Miller layup; however, from there Davis-Stewart and the Warriors led the remainder of the game.

It didn’t matter who Whittington put on Davis-Stewart because the 6-foot-1 forward scored inside and knocked down 6-of-7 from 3-point range for a game-high 26 points.

“To see No. 24 (Davis-Stewart), the big kid inside, she’s the one that had all of the 3’s — she had five 3’s in the first half,” Whittington said. “If we can’t stop her on the perimeter, than how do you get to the other kids? It was just a matter of us trying to figure out, pick your poison, which one do you go after.”

Not only the NEC’s leading in points, but Davis-Stewart also tops the list in rebounds, which she pulled down 14, and blocks, which she swatted away four.

Kate Mager helped out for the Warriors as she knocked down 3-for-5 from deep long range for 13 points, while Diamond Christian got her team going late in the first half as she finished with 10points and Jayme Decesare had 11.

Jenna Mastellone was the lone SFU player to reach double figures as she was able to figure out the Merrimack defense that the rest of her team couldn’t quite adjust to.

The Red Flash were given the middle of the zone, but perhaps the idea of being wide open or maybe the nearby presence of Davis-Stewart got into the head of the SFU players because many passed up shots.

“We gave it to our post players in the first half on the block — they didn’t want it,” Whittington said. “So, we had to go somewhere else. We can’t spend all that time trying to go inside, go inside, go inside and the kids don’t want it.”

As SFU struggled to find itself offensively all game, the Warriors got more-and-more confident as they eventually led by a high of 19 points when Mager drilled her team’s last points of the day with 3:11 left to play to put her team up 71-52.

“The zone offense has been a nemesis, and it showed that today. We couldn’t score (because) they (Merrimack) were too active,” Whittington said. “We had wide-open shots offensively that just didn’t go in.”

Trailing by 11 (36-25) at the half, the Red Flash would only get as close as six points on two occasions in the second half before the Warriors would just push the lead back into double digits.

MERRIMACK (11-7, 4-3): Fursman 1-1 0-0 2, Davis-Stewart 7-15 6-7 26, Clasen 2-6 0-0 5, Decesare 4-12 1-1 11, Mager 5-9 0-0 13, Thomas 1-3 2-3 4, Christian 5-9 0-2 10, Houle 0-1 0-0 0, Gattuso 0-0 0-0 0, Wilson 0-0 0-0 0, Orlando 0-0 0-0 0. Totals — 25-56 9-13 71.

SAINT FRANCIS (7-11, 5-2): Dettwiller 4-5 0-0 8, Thomas 4-14 0-0 8, Allen 1-3 0-0 2, Swogger 2-9 0-0 4, Sabino 1-4 0-0 2, Mastellone 6-8 0-0 14, Miller 4-6 0-2 8, Dapaa 4-7 0-0 8, Benzel 0-4 0-0 3, Carroll 0-0 0-0 0, Murphy 0-1 0-0 0, Pollard 0-0 0-0 0, Kovac 1-1 0-0 2. Totals — 27-62 0-2 56.

SCORE BY QUARTERS

Merrimack 15 21 15 20 — 71

Saint Francis 10 15 15 16 — 56

3-point goals: Merrimack 12-23 (Davis-Stewart 6-7, Mager 3-5, Decesare 2-6, Clasen 1-1, Thomas 0-1, Christian 0-2); Saint Francis 2-15 (Mastellone 2-2, Sabino 0-1, Murphy 0-1, Swogger 0-3, Thomas 0-4, Benzel 0-4). Rebounds: Merrimack 30 (Davis-Stewart 14); Saint Francis 38 (Dapaa 10). Assists: Merrimack 11 (Clasen 3); Saint Francis 14 (Benzel 3). Blocks: Merrimack 6 (Davis-Stewart 4); Saint Francis 4 (Dettwiller, Thomas, Swogger, Dapaa 1 each). Steals: Merrimack 3 (Thomas, Christian, Gattuso 1 each); Saint Francis 5 (Swogger 2). Turnovers: Merrimack 6; Saint Francis 9. Total fouls: Merrimack 6; Saint Francis 9. Fouled out: none.

Officials: Natasha Camy, Cara Seggie, Anthony Redfin.

A: 355.

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