By Matt Leon
PHILADELPHIA (CBS) – It has already been an outstanding season for the St. Joe’s women’s basketball team, but they have a chance to take it to another level on Saturday. That’s when they will take on Fordham up in Brooklyn, New York, in the finals of the Atlantic 10 Tournament. Of course, the winner gets an automatic bid to the NCAA Tournament.
“It’s really exciting,’ St. Joe’s head coach Cindy Griffin tells KYW Newsradio. “Our kids have worked really, really hard. We’ve had a great non-conference schedule challenge them and get them prepared for the Atlantic 10 Conference. To be able to win two in a row this weekend against two NCAA (Tournament) teams, in my opinion, was fantastic. Then capping it off against #11 Dayton yesterday was just unbelievable.”
St. Joe’s beat Duquesne on Saturday night before that win over the Flyers – both games were played on Hawk Hill at Hagan Arena. St. Joe’s resume for the NCAA Tournament is already quite strong. In addition to getting to the A-10 finals, the Hawks have won 22 games – that includes a signature victory over #12 Maryland back on November 17th.
The Hawks are led by senior Chatilla van Grinsven and her double-double average: 15.1 points and 10.5 rebounds a game. Junior guard Erin Shields chips in 11.8 points a game while shooting 38% from three.
This year’s A-10 Tournament utilizing a bit of a different schedule than most conference tournaments this season, with this five-day break between the semi-finals and the final.
“I don’t know yet,” Griffin says when asked how she feels about the set-up. “I think if you didn’t have a bye in the first round, if you needed to win four-in-a-row, I think it would be very beneficial for your legs and those types of things. We happened to have a bye this time and so did Fordham. So we have a chance to rest our legs and play on Saturday night in Brooklyn and I think that’s a great opportunity for our kids. You know, we’ll see, I don’t have an opinion on it yet. But I’ll let you know on Sunday.”
St. Joe’s and Fordham matched back on February 24th during the regular season. The Hawks lost in overtime, 70-63, in the Bronx.
“They’re very talented,” Griffin says of Fordham. “They’re very disciplined. They scrap, they fight. When you don’t do things fundamentally sound, they’ll catch you. So you’ve got to really stay on your toes. They shoot the three ball. They shoot a lot of them. If you’re up six or seven, and they come down and hit two or three, they’ve got the momentum. They really score in bunches and they are really talented.”
The Rams are 24-7 heading into Saturday’s game.
St. Joe’s and Fordham will battle at 7:00pm on Saturday night in Brooklyn.
You can follow Matt on Twitter @mattleonkyw.