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Baker Leads Women's Basketball Past Fordham in Atlantic 10 Championship Opener, 63-52


Hawks Take First Conference Crown Since 1999; Earn First NCAA Berth Since 2000

BROOKLYN, N.Y. – Trailing by as many as 12 early in the game, the Saint Joseph’s women’s basketball team roared back to earn a 47-46 victory over Fordham in the final of the 2013 Atlantic 10 Women’s Basketball Championship at the Barclays Center on Saturday night.  The win gives the Hawks their first Atlantic 10 title since 1999, and punches SJU’s ticket to the NCAA Tournament.

Natasha Cloud was named the Most Outstanding Player of the Championship, while Chatilla van Grinsven joined her on the All-Championship Team.

Saint Joseph’s (23-8) held a 37-36 lead before Ashley Prim hit a three-pointer with 4:25 left in the second half to give the Hawks a 40-36 lead.  Fordham responded with six straight points, taking a 42-40 lead on a three-pointer by Abigail Corning with 3:12 to go.

The Hawks answered right back as Erin Shields hit her first three of the game with 2:58 to play and put SJU on top, 43-42.  Ilze Gotfrida followed with a jumper from the elbow to extend the lead to 45-42 with 2:29 to go.

Corning answered for the Rams, hitting a three from the corner at the 2:08 mark to tie the score at 45-45.  Van Grinsven then hit a pair of free throws to put the Hawks on top, 47-45, with 1:47 remaining.

Erin Rooney went to the line for the Rams and hit the first of two free throws with 30.9 seconds left to cut the Hawk lead to one; she missed the second, but the rebound went out of bounds to the Rams.

With 6.7 seconds to go, Fordham’s Samantha Clark was called for an offensive foul, turning possession over to Saint Joseph’s.  After van Grinsven missed two free throws with 3.8 seconds left, a desperation heave by the Rams’ Marah Strickland fell short and the celebration was underway.

Cloud finished with a team-high 15 points, 10 of them in the second half, as well as six assists and six rebounds.  Van Grinsven added eight points and 10 rebounds, while Prim scored eight points and Ashley Robinson pulled in six boards.

Strickland led all scorers with 16 points while Corning added 12.  Strickland and Rooney joined Cloud and van Grinsven on the All-Championship team, as did Rateska Brown of Temple.

The Hawks shot just 21.4 percent in the first period, but went 12-of-23 (52.2 percent) in the second half while stifling the Rams, holding them to just seven field goals and 28.0 percent shooting in the second half to engineer the comeback.

Fordham (24-8) opened up a 12-0 lead out of the gates, hitting five of its first 10 shots of the game while the Hawks started off 0-for-10 from the floor.  The Hawks scored 12 of the next 16 points, however, including five apiece from Prim and Cloud, to cut the lead to four at 16-12 with seven minutes to play in the half.  The Rams followed with an 8-2 run to extend their advantage to 10 before Gotfrida scored with 37 seconds to go to send the teams to the locker room at 24-16.

The Hawks got with four at 24-20 one minute into the second half on a jumper by Shields, but the Rams scored six straight to lead it 30-22 with 16:50 to go.

Saint Joseph’s answered with the game’s next 12 points, including five straight from Cloud, to take its first lead of the game.  A layup by van Grinsven put the Hawks on top, 31-30, before Mireia Vila hit a three-pointer to push the lead to 34-30 with 10:47 to play, setting up the game’s dramatic finish.  

Clinching their first trip to the “Big Dance” since 2000, the Hawks will have to wait until Monday night to learn the identity of their first round opponent and where they will play as the NCAA Women’s Selection Show will air on ESPN at 7:00 p.m. on March 18.
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