By Kevin Noonan, QBSN Staff Writer
With a Northeast Conference championship and a bid to the NCAA tournament on the line, the top-seeded Quinnipiac Bobcats host fourth-seeded Saint Francis Red Flash on Sunday in Hamden. The Red Flash have won 11 NEC championships in their history, while the Bobcats are headed to the championship game for the first time since the 2005-06 season.
Quinnipiac saw a scare from the sixth-seeded Mount St. Mary’s Mountaineers in their semifinal matchup, but the Bobcats prevailed 63-56. The Mount had a five point lead at halftime and lead by as much as nine early in the second half. Sophomore Jasmine Martin (Sicklerville, N.J.) led all scorers with 22 points, adding four rebounds and three steals as well. Martin sparked a 10-0 run early in the second half to give the Bobcats a 43-41 lead. Junior Brittany McQuain (Independence, Mo.) added 10 points and eight rebounds while senior Felicia Barron (Springfield, Mass.) had 10 points and four steals.
Saint Francis advanced to the championship by upsetting the second-seeded Sacred Heart Pioneers 83-67. The Red Flash never trailed in the game and lead by as many as 23 points with 18:05 to go in the second half before a Pioneer rally cut the lead to 10, but the rally was short-lived. Alli Williams lead the Red Flash with 24 points, 12 rebounds, six steals and four assists to the fill the stat sheet while Rebecca Sparks lead all scorers in the game with 27 points.
Keys to the Game
- 3-point shooting: Despite making five 3-pointers in the game, Quinnipiac only shot 25 percent from behind the arc compared to the Mount shooting 42 percent from 3-point land. The Bobcats need to defend the three a lot better, as well as take smarter shots.
- Free throw shooting: For one of the few times all season, the Bobcats were in a position at the end of the game where they had to make their free throws. Quinnipiac was up to the task, making 14-16 attempts. To have a shot at winning the NEC championship for the first time, the Bobcats will need to mimic this performance from the charity stripe.
- Felicia Barron: The Springfield, Mass. senior has to show up offensively for the Bobcats. Although this is a team that does not rely on one player in particular, Barron has struggled to score. In four of the last eight games, Barron has not reached double-digits and she has to step up to take pressure off of Martin and McQuain.
- Pressure: The Red Flash have a reputation as being one of the most tenacious defensive teams in the league, right up there with the Bobcats. Saint Francis has to pressure Quinnipiac point guard Gillian Abshire (Washington, D.C.) and take her out of the game. If they can force Abshire to turn the ball over, it will work in Saint Francis’ favor.
- Alli Williams: The junior forward has filled the stat sheet all season long, leading the Red Flash into the championship game. She averages a double-double on the season, along with 3.74 steals per game. If Williams can replicate these figures as she did against Sacred Heart, the Bobcats will have their hands full guarding her.
- Experience: The Red Flash have seven players that have played in at least one NEC championship game, so they know the pressure of being in the game. This combination of juniors and seniors can share their experiences with the younger players, in particular Rebecca Sparks who has stepped up to be an offensive leader on the team.