WEST HARTFORD, Conn. — It was another all-around effort on both ends, as the University of Saint Joseph (USJ) Blue Jays knocked off the Mount Holyoke College (MHC) Lyons in the semifinals of the 21st Annual USJ Tip-off Tournament, 69-45, inside the O'Connell Athletic Center on Friday evening.
The Blue Jays (2-2), who are coming off a stellar shooting performance Wednesday night (11-23 3FG), shot 45% for the second straight game (including 6-11 3FG). Freshman forward Cheyenne-Mone Smith (Wethersfield, Conn.) led all scorers with 17 points, converting from inside and out. It was also the coming out party for freshman guard Lindsey Montminy (Vernon, Conn.), who recorded a well-deserved first career double-double in just her fourth career game (12 pts, 12 rebs, 3 asts).
The Lyons (0-4) were led by sophomore guard Ireland Clare Kennedy (Oakland, Calif.), who scored 13 points and grabbed four rebounds. USJ will face the winner of Fitchburg State University (FSU) and Wellesley College (WC) in the Tip-off Tournament Championship on Saturday.
Sophomore guard Raelynn Voislow (Windsor Locks, Conn.) opened up the game by walking right into a jumper at the top of the key. She followed it up with a corner jump-shot, and a three from the wing, igniting Blue Jay faithful inside the O'Connell Athletic Center.
The Lyons would match the Blue Jays' intensity, particularly their energetic bench. On the floor, MHC converted several baskets on the offensive glass, and went to a 1-2-2 full-court press. Four Lyons scored in the first six minutes, including senior guard Zahkeyah Allen (Philadelphia, Pa.), who had two hard drives to the hole.
Still, the Blue Jays forced nine first-quarter turnovers, allowing them to get out in transition for quick hoops.
The momentum looked to shift when Voislow picked up her second foul on a touch foul underneath the basket. The Blue Jays were up 14-9, with four minutes to go.
USJ would keep the pressure on though, thanks in part to Smith, who slashed to the basket for six early points. Sophomore forward Shaniyah Williams (New Britain, Conn.) also played a key role early, scoring on a mid-range jumper and drawing a charge. The Blue Jays made more than half of their first-quarter shots, and led 21-13 after one.
St. Joe's increased their lead to 15 midway through the second, despite picking up three early team fouls. Sophomore guard Anna Chevarella (Derby, Conn.) scored twice going to the hoop and once from three, while Smith and Williams got what they wanted offensively, another hard drive and another three of her own.
The Lyons again continued to hang tough—12 offensive rebounds kept the pressure on the Blue Jay defense (which surprisingly was mostly man-to-man, rather than the 3-2 zone we have seen thus far), but ultimately MHC was not able to convert on the foul line (3-9 FT), or from deep (0-8 3FG), and St. Joes took a 41-23 lead into the half.
Voislow picked up right where she left off in the first half, knocking down a wing three, a designed play by first-year Blue Jay Head Coach Wendy Davis. Smith followed it up with a transition hoop, and the lead was 23.
Kennedy quietly racked up the numbers offensively for the Lyons, while junior guard Katlyn Grover (Bernardston, Mass.) finally got going with a triple from the top. Grover leads the Lyons at nearly 12 points a game. She was held to 9 on just 3-of-14 shooting from the floor (2-10 3FG), but MHC kept chipping away, narrowing the gap to 16.
Too many options on offense has made the difference the last two games for USJ. This time it was Montminy, who even with the early season shooting struggles (4-19, 21%), keeps her head down and seems to always be there; either tipping a ball away from an offensive player, diving on the floor for a loose ball, grabbing a weak-side rebound, or dishing out an assist to a wide open player. She is making all the hustle plays, and it compliments the Blue Jays well. Montminy also chipped in with two baskets in the quarter, and with help from Smith on both ends, USJ built the lead back up again, up 19 after three, 57-38.
The Blue Jays held surge in the fourth quarter, maintaining a 20-point lead throughout. Chevarella ran the point, getting the Lyons into the penalty midway through, which allowed USJ to stay aggressive. Saint Joe's held Mount Holyoke to just 31% shooting (only two three-pointers), holding off any last-minute runs until the final buzzer.
Saint Joe's will play in the Tip-off Tournament Championship against the winner of the second semifinal game (Fitchburg State University vs. Wellesley College) this Saturday at 2:00pm inside the O'Connell Athletic Center, on the campus of USJ. Saint Joe's has not won the Tip-off Tournament since 2011.