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Basketball Stumped in GNAC Opener by Albertus Magnus

Basketball Stumped in GNAC Opener by Albertus Magnus

NEW HAVEN, Conn. – Three Blue Jays finished in double figures including junior Kayla Guest (Newington, CT) who posted her fourth straight double-double, but the Albertus Magnus Falcons stormed ahead early and never looked back to defeat the University of Saint Joseph, 89-66, on Thursday evening in Great Northeast Athletic Conference (GNAC) action at The Nest inside the Cosgrove Marcus Messer Athletic Center.

The Falcons improve to 4-3 overall and 1-0 in the GNAC with the victory, winning their conference opener for the first time since the 2011-12 campaign, while the visiting Blue Jays slip to 2-4 overall and 0-1 in the league and have now dropped three consecutive contests.

Albertus Magnus opened the game with a 6-0 run and would never look back as they didn't trail in the game. During the early spurt, USJ committed one turnover and missed its first three shots from the field, while AMC's Deja Ward (Middletown, CT) netted a transition layup to cap the run for the home team.

The Blue Jays would get back within 6-3 after an old-fashioned three-point play from Guest, but the Falcons answered and ran off 10-straight points over the ensuing three minutes bookended by a lay in from Kiki Epps (Norwalk, CT) to take command of the game. With the hosts holding a 16-3 advantage with four minutes left in the first quarter, each squad netted 12 points to end the frame 28-15 in favor of the Falcons.

Albertus Magnus maintained a double-digit lead throughout the entire second period. USJ used a quick 6-0 spurt in the middle of the frame to pull within 10 (33-23) with 5:58 left before halftime, but that would be as close as they would get for the remainder of the game.  A layup by junior Rajeen Mayo (Middletown, CT) followed by another three-point play from Guest and a made free throw by senior Carlee Putnam (Niantic, CT) accounted for the scoring during the run. AMC responded again though and outscored USJ 10-2 over the remainder of the quarter to build a 43-25 lead into the break.

The Falcons kept their foot on the pedal in the second half, stretching their lead to as many as 32 early in the fourth quarter. The Blue Jays would finish the game strong though winning the final seven minutes of play and outscored AMC 26-21 in the final period to account for the 89-66 final margin.

USJ had a balanced scoring attack in the setback with Putnam, Guest and Mayo as the three Blue Jay players to finish in double figures. Putnam led the way with 18 points on 6-of-19 shooting, including 4-of-9 from beyond the arc. The four triples is a season-high for the sharpshooter so far this year. Guest poured in 16 points to go along with 10 rebounds to post her fourth consecutive double-double and Mayo finished with 14 points and four assists.

For Albertus Magnus, sophomore Jill Johnson (North Haven, CT) drained a career-best 26 points on 8-of-16 shooting to lead the Falcons. Epps had her strongest game of the season, netting 18 points, while junior Olivia Bolden (South Windsor, CT) added 17 and classmate Angelina Piccirillo (Naugatuck, CT) was the other Falcon in double figures with 11 points off the bench.

AMC held the advantage on the glass outrebounding USJ 55-43, including a 24-15 edge on the offensive end. They used that edge to drop in 27 second chance points on the Blue Jays. Senior Elisha Pertillar (Windsor, CT) had a nice night on the glass though for the Blue Jays pulling down a season-high 10 boards.

The Falcons shot 40.2 percent (33-82) from the floor and 81.0 percent (17-21) from the free throw line in the victory, while the Blue Jays were held to 36.4 percent (24-66) shooting and 61.9 percent (13-21) from the charity stripe. AMC also forced 26 USJ turnovers and turned them into 24 points.

The Blue Jays will look to bounce back when they return to action next at home on Saturday, Dec. 3 vs. Emmanuel in another Great Northeast Athletic Conference showdown. Tip-off is slated for 1 p.m. inside the O'Connell Center.