WEST HARTFORD, Conn.— The University of Saint Joseph (USJ) women's basketball team closed out the season with a fight to the end, just like they always did, but ultimately could not come away with the win in a scrappy battle with Regis College (RC), 58-48, inside the O'Connell Center Saturday afternoon.
The Blue Jays (3-22, 0-12 GNAC) trailed by four with 2:02 to play, but the Pride (11-14, 7-5 GNAC) executed just a little better down the stretch, relying on their inside game and full-court pressure to walk away with the win. Freshman forward Arie Searcy (Santa Rosa, Calif.) scored a game-high 18 points (8-15 FG) and grabbed nine rebounds. Sophomore guard Nikki Bitinaitis (Cromwell, Conn.) had a well-rounded performance (13 PTS, 4 REBS, 4 STLS), including 9-of-10 from the free-throw line. Junior forward Katryna Veasey (Quincy, Mass.) scored 11. The Pride could not make a three all game (0-11), but made up for it at the charity stripe (23-28 FT, 82%). Freshman guard Silvana Barcomb (Middletown, Conn.) scored a team-high 14 points for the Blue Jays. Freshman forward Cheyenne-Mone Smith (Wethersfield, Conn.) scored 13, while freshman forward Lindsey Montminy once again led the way in the rebounding department (8 PTS, 10 REBS).
The Pride looked to be the sharper team early, taking a 6-0 lead in the first minute, as Searcy scored the first two buckets of the game. RC maintained the lead with consistent hard drives to the hoop, either finishing at the rim, or getting to the foul line. The Blue Jays struggled in the first containing dribble penetration, but began to adjust by the end of the first, trailing 12-6.
Smith buried the first two baskets of the second for USJ, and the team defense also improved. Even when the initial defender was beat, help defense was there to contain the dribble drive. USJ also cleaned up the glass, holding the Pride to one shot. With the help of Barcomb, and an and-one from Montminy with 23 seconds left, USJ trailed by just five, 22-17 at the half.
RC opened the third quarter on an 8-0 run, as senior forward Sam D'Angelo (Woburn, Mass.) converted twice inside, the energetic Pride bench jumping from their seats. First year head coach Wendy Davis called a quick timeout for USJ, trailing 30-17 with 7:12 left in the third. Sophomore point guard Raelynn Voislow also had to sit the rest of the quarter after picking up her fourth foul.
It seemed all was going RC's way, but the Blue Jays showed that fight we have seen all year, no matter the score or the situation. Smith helped spark the offense once again, despite a few team turnovers, and a three from sophomore forward Shaniyah Williams (New Britain, Conn.) off the dribble kept it close. After three quarters, USJ was still very much alive, down 39-31, with 10:00 left in their season.
With nothing to lose and everything to gain, the Blue Jays went back to work for their final quarter of the year. A Barcomb bomb from the left wing made it a five point game, 39-34 with 8:07 to play. You could feel the intensity picking up, the physicality heightening in the lane. A driving shot by Smith cut the lead to three, 41-38, with 5:47 left. Timeout RC.
A designed play for Searcy led to a quick score and the lead back to five. The Pride turned back to their full-court pressure and got a quick steal, which eventually led to a jumper for a score. Despite a Montminy and one again, and a driving shot for Smith again, USJ could not contain the inside work of RC, who time and time again converted at the foul line. USJ was only down four with 2:02 to play, but they could not get the stops they needed down the stretch to get over the hump, and despite an excellent effort in the second half, the Blue Jays could not get the win. The mood as always was a positive one, as Saint Joe's, who allowed more than 74 points a game during conference play, held the Pride to just 58 points, and made them earn it every trip down the floor. The O'Connell Center crowd had nothing but cheers for the team's efforts all season long.