Basketball Tripped-Up at USJ Tip-Off Semifinals

Ireland Clare Kennedy

WEST HARTFORD, Conn.— Despite points from nearly every player in the lineup, the Mount Holyoke College basketball team was unable to get past the University of Saint Joseph (USJ). The Lyons shouldered a 69-45 loss in the semi-finals of the 21st Annual USJ Tip-off Tournament on Friday evening.

The Blue Jays (2-2) were led by first year forward Cheyenne-Mone Smith (Wethersfield, Conn.), who led all scorers with 17 points, converting from inside and out. It was also the coming out party for freshman guard Lindsey Montminy, 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.

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.

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 captain and guard Zahkeyah Allen (Philadelphia, Penn.), 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, 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, while Smith followed it up with a transition hoop, and the lead was 23.

Clare Kennedy quietly racked up the numbers offensively for the Lyons, while junior guard and captain 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, but MHC kept chipping away, narrowing the gap to 16.

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 surged 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. St. Joe's held Mount Holyoke to just 31% shooting, holding off any last-minute runs until the final buzzer.

St. Joe's will play in the Tip-off Tournament Championship against Wellesley College, who defeated Fitchburg State in the second semifinal. That game begins on Saturday at 2:00pm inside the O'Connell Athletic Center, on the campus of USJ. Mount Holyoke will face-off against Fitchburg State in the consolation game, beginning at 12pm at USJ.