DUDLEY, Mass. — The University of Saint Joseph (USJ) women's basketball team had three chances to tie with less than a minute to go, but came up short to the Nichols College (NC) Bison falling on the road in dramatic fashion, 51-48.
The Blue Jays (0-2) turned the ball over twice, and still had a good look at the basket with six seconds left, down by three. A missed three-pointer from the left corner by freshman guard Silvana Barcomb (Middletown, Conn.) ended the fourth quarter comeback in its tracks. USJ missed 50 shots on the night (16-67 FG) after a much-improved defensive effort. The Bison (1-0) made seven big three-pointers to hold off USJ.
Sophomore guard Raelynn Voislow (Windsor Locks, Conn.) scored a team-high 12 points, 10 in the second half. Senior forward Diamond Wallen (Hartford, Conn.) recorded her first career double-double (10 pts, 13 rebs), battling inside on nearly every possession with the Bison's 6'0 senior center Rebecca Cleary (Milford, N.H.). Cleary finished with 11 points, 16 rebounds and five blocked shots, altering a dozen more with her long wingspan.
Wallen once again made her presence known early despite full-court pressure from NC. Utilizing her strength around the basket, and versatility in the post, she scored the first seven points for USJ.
It was a much more active 3-2 zone for first-year USJ Head Coach Wendy Davis. The Blue Jays allowed just one point in the first nine minutes and led 14-6 after one. St. Joe's held the Bison to just 2-of-15 shooting in the first quarter.
Nichols College head coach Marylynn Skarzenski changed to a 2-3 zone to start the second. It paid dividends, as USJ went cold, especially around the hoop (2-14 FG in second quarter), while the Bison came storming back on a 13-3 run, behind the dominance of Cleary. She cleaned up the glass on both ends, leading all players with nine points and nine rebounds in the first half.
The Blue Jays hung tough though and held the lead with 2:28 left in the second quarter, deflecting several passes at the top of the 3-2, often two to three deflections at a time. Freshman forward Cheyenne Mone-Smith (Wethersfield, Conn.) had a block and three steals in the first half, one leading to a fast break layup. Sophomore guard Shaniyah Williams (New Britain, Conn.) broke through with a three from the top of the key. The game was tied 21-21 at the half.
NC came out of the break with three-straight three-pointers—two from senior guard Mekaela Fithian-Giantonio (Plainville, Conn.) and one from sophomore guard Isabella Nerney (Guilford, Conn.), good for a 9-0 run.
Voislow kept it close with two threes of her own. Sophomore forward Deanna De La Cruz (Winsted, Conn.) also got involved, scoring on a dump down in transition, and a turnaround jump shot in traffic in the paint, giving the Blue Jays a 33-32 lead with 2:10 left in the third. The back and forth action continued, before USJ ended the quarter down just one, 36-35.
Junior guard Ciarri Formby-Lavertu (Mount Vernon, N.H.) seemed to make the right plays at the right time for NC, helping disrupt the flow of the USJ offense, before scoring some big baskets down the stretch. Formby-Lavertu scored 10 points and dished out five assists.
Still, USJ stayed in striking distance off another huge three from Voislow, making it 48-45 with 2:45 to go.
After several big stops and a few traded free-throws, the Blue Jays trailed 50-48 with 40 seconds to go. They would end up with three chances to score—on the first two tries, the Blue Jays turned it over on passes to the sideline. On the third, down 51-48 this time, Barcomb got a great pass, and had a good look on a corner three but missed. Wallen grabbed an offensive rebound but missed a put-back as time expired. Coach Davis once again encouraged the Blue Jays throughout.
Nerney led all scorers with 13 points.
USJ is headed home for a matchup with Bay Path this Wednesday, November 14 at 7:00 pm inside the O'Connell Athletic Center on the campus of USJ.