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Red Flash women struggle in home loss to LIU

LORETTO — For the first 15 minutes of the opening half, Saint Francis and LIU battled back and forth with neither team able to gain control.

A turnover-filled last five minutes by the Red Flash allowed the Sharks to get a little bit of breathing room.

LIU’s Brandy Thomas showed why she’s an all-NEC caliber performer as her scoring outburst to start the third quarter put SFU in a hole it couldn’t climb out of in a 71-64 Northeast Conference loss on Sunday at DeGol Arena.

“We’re definitely disappointed with the loss,” Saint Francis coach Keila Whittington said. “We talked a lot about taking advantage of the opportunities, and we thought that this was definitely a game where we could come out and take away some things from LIU, and come out with a win. Obviously, that didn’t happen.”

A layup by Saint Francis’ Haley Thomas with 5:47 left in the second quarter tied the contest at 25.

The opening half, which had seven lead changes and three ties, took a different turn in LIU’s direction moments later when Drew Winter buried a 3-pointer to put the Sharks back on top.

The Red Flash ended the half with six turnovers and several missed shots to remain scoreless the rest of the way, while the Sharks got layups from Paulani Tarawa and Mia Perkins, who registered 10 points, to take a 32-25 edge at the half.

“Normally, going into halftime, if you’re on and you’re scoring and you’re defending, then that helps you have some energy coming out of halftime,” Whittington said. “We struggled scoring going into the halftime — turning the ball over. … Going into the locker room, we tried to get them settled down. We came out in the third quarter, and it was the same thing — you’ve got to defend. It started on the defensive end.”

Brandy Thomas took over the game coming out of the break as she scored the first seven points, and 12 total, in a 16-8 spurt that saw Long Island claim a 48-33 lead when Brandy Thomas hit a baseline jumper with 3:30 to go.

Haley Thomas, who finished with a season-high 20 points, drilled a 3-pointer and converted a three-point play to close the gap back to 10 (48-38).

Brandy Thomas, who tied her season-high with 29 points, hit a jumper, and Tarawa converted inside to put the Sharks back on top 52-39 after three quarters of play.

“We had a really, really hard time trying to stop Brandy Thomas,” Whittington said. “So, when you give up that many points to one kid, and not give yourselves shot opportunities and an opportunity to win, then it comes out in a loss.”

Lili Benzel, who finished with 12 points, knocked down a 3-pointer from the top to pull SFU within six (58-52) with 2:16 left to play.

Ryan Weise drilled a triple and Drew WInter made two free throws to put the lead back to double digits (63-52) with 1:26 remaining.

With Saint Francis in foul mode, Long Island did its part by making free throws, but failed to stop the Red Flash on the defensive end as Benzel drilled another trifecta.

Sam Sabino came up with a steal, got fouled on the layup attempt and made the first of two before Haley Thomas forced a jump ball that kept the possession in SFU’s favor.

“Going into the fourth quarter, you’re behind, so it’s chip away, chip away,” Whittington said. “It’s a combination of everything piling up.”

A 3-pointer by Sam Miller with 21.4 left to play to keep things interesting by making the score 68-64.

Weise hit a pair of foul shots, followed by a 3-point attempt from SFU’s Karson Swogger, who recorded 12 points, that missed everything.

Jeydah Johnson made the first of two foul shots with 11 ticks to go to set the final.

The loss, which dropped SFU to 11-16 overall and 9-7 in NEC play, was the third straight and fourth in five games. Meanwhile, Long Island improved to 7-18 and 6-8.

“I think the turnovers have definitely hurt us the past couple of games,” Haley Thomas said of her team which turned the ball over 21 times. “They’ve hurt us all season, but we’ve found ways to get out of it and win the games. Now, they’re kind of coming back to bite us.”

LIU (7-18, 6-8): Perkins 4-6 0-0 10, WInter 1-4 4-4 7, Weise 2-6 6-8 11, Thomas 12-16 2-3 29, Sanford 2-5 0-0 4, Johnson 1-6 1-2 4, Bell 1-5 0-0 2, Tarawa 2-4 0-0 4, Vaatanen 0-1 0-0 0. Totals: 25-53 13-17 71.

SAINT FRANCIS (11-16, 9-7): Dettwiller 0-0 0-0 0, Thomas 9-13 1-1 20, Allen 2-2 0-0 4, Swogger 5-12 0-0 12, Sabino 1-3 1-2 3, Miller 2-3 0-0 5, Dapaa 4-4 0-0 8, Benzel 4-12 0-0 12, Mastellone 0-2 0-0 0, Kovac 0-0 0-0 0. Totals: 27-51 2-3 64.

SCORE BY QUARTERS

LIU 17 15 20 19 — 71

Saint Francis 18 7 14 25 — 64

3-point field goals: Long Island 8-20 (Thomas 3-3, Perkins 2-4, Winter 1-3, Wiese 1-3, Johnson 1-4, Tarawa 0-1, Sanford 0-2); Saint Francis 8-24 (Benzel 4-10, Swogger 2-6, Miller 1-2, Thomas 1-3, Sabino 0-1, Mastellone 0-2). Rebounds: Long Island 22 (Bell 5); Saint Francis 33 (Dapaa 7). Assists: Long Island 6 (Winter 2); Saint Francis 10 (Allen, Swogger 3 each). Blocks: Long Island 1 (Tarawa); Saint Francis none. Steals: Long Island 14 (Winter 5); Saint Francis 5 (Sabino 3). Turnovers: Long Island 13; Saint Francis 21. Total fouls: Long Island 9; Saint Francis 17. Fouled out: Allen. Technicals: none. A: 731.

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