No one is quite sure exactly what was the best part of the SLU and Duquesne game on Feb. 18.
The Billiken women basketball team earned their 20th win of the season, actively exceeding their previous conference and season bests. They knocked the nationally ranked no. 23 Dukes out of their seven-game winning streak. SLU moved into third place in the conference, tied with St. Bonaventure. To top it all off, senior Sadie Stipanovich scored her 1000th career point.
Regardless of what highlights the growing crowds are drawing from Chaifetz Arena when they watch the women’s basketball team, it is clear there is no stopping this group of women and their path towards the Atlantic 10 Championship.
The first quarter started with a scoring flurry from both sides, with SLU having a 12-8 lead halfway through the quarter. A layup from sophomore forward Maddison Gits and a three pointer from freshman guard Jordyn Frantz gave them a nine-point gap to work with. The Dukes had a bit of a comeback in the last two minutes of the quarter, but the Bills held a lead of six points going into the second quarter, 21-15.
Sophomore guard Jackie Kemph started off the second quarter with a layup and a pair of free throws to keep SLU’s advantage, 27-20. However, a missed layup and a turnover in the following possession gave Duquesne the opportunity to bring the game within three points with six minutes to go until halftime.
After a SLU timeout to regroup and make some substitutions, SLU expanded the lead within two and a half minutes, 35-24. The Bills let the Dukes back within five as they went on an 8-2 run in the last few minutes of the quarter. The Billikens led 37-32 going into the half.
Senior center Denisha Womack made it clear that the Billikens were not about to let up in the second half when she sunk a three-pointer ten seconds into the third quarter. Stipanovich followed that up with two layups on back-to-back possessions. The Dukes were able to get into a bit of a groove by stringing together a few key possessions, and they came within five points of SLU, 48-43. They hit a spark with two three-pointers and a pair of free throws to close the gap even further, 52-51.
SLU took some time to regain their composure at the tail-end of the third quarter. They were able to keep their lead throughout the entirety of the quarter, but never really drew away from the Dukes for a comfortable lead until the very last seconds of the quarter with a pair of free throws from Kemph. SLU led 65-60 going into the last quarter of play.
Senior guard Jamesia Price secured the early lead for the Billikens with a pair of free throws. Kemph followed her up with a three-pointer, making the game 70-64. The Dukes went on a 10-6 run despite SLU’s dominance early on to make it a two-point game with four minutes left to play. The Bills kept the Dukes at a distance in the last minute of the game with some free throws from Kemph and a layup from Price. Duquesne had a late last-minute go at victory when they nailed a three-pointer with four seconds remaining to trail SLU by only two points, 83-81. They fouled Kemph right away and were unable to generate a substantial chance in the last seconds of the game. SLU took the upset, 84-81.
The Duquesne game was clearly a team effort on both sides of the ball. Kemph and Womack registered double-doubles. Kemph had a game high of 13 assists and consequently set the single-season record for most assists with 187. Stipanovich scored 16 points and Gits pocketed 12 points. Womack brought down 11 rebounds, and the team earned a 35-32 rebound advantage overall. They shot 52.5 percent from the field and an impressive 40 percent from the three-point line.
SLU traveled up north to face Fordham, which was an entirely different game from their previous scoring showdown with Duquesne. SLU eked out a 51-49 win on Feb. 21 to give SLU their ninth road victory of the season.
The first quarter began smoothly with a 5-0 lead out of the gate. They shut Fordham down for the first portion of the quarter, leading 12-3 with five minutes left. The Rams went on a 9-6 spurt in the last minutes of the quarter to decrease the margin, 18-12 in favor of the Billikens.
The Billikens were unable to find success in the second quarter at all, as they only racked up eight points in the ten mintues of play. The Rams did not take much advantage of the Billikens’ offensive lapse, but still found a way to come out on the front foot. Fordham drew ahead by one basket, 28-26 going into intermission.
SLU appeared more like their normal selves offensively at the onset of the third quarter. Kemph and sophomore guard Jenny Vliet opened things up with a layup and a three-pointer, respectively, to take the lead back, 31-28. The game remained close, and both teams took turns with the lead until Womack put away two free throws in the last two minutes. SLU led 41-37 going into the fourth quarter.
The fourth quarter appeared quite like the second quarter, as both teams were unable to find a way to put the ball in the basket. The first points of the quarter were not scored until two minutes of play ensued, and Fordham finally put in a layup. The Billikens scored their first points at the 5:55 mark with a layup from junior forward Olivia Jakubicek. This gave SLU a bit of a spark, as Kemph followed up her efforts with two layups to take the lead 47-39.
Fordham gave SLU a run for their money when they sunk two three-pointers and earned a free throw from a turnover and a foul on the Billikens’ part. The Billikens had a one-point lead with two minutes left to play. Kemph put in a layup on their next possession, but Fordham showed up again with another three-pointer to tie the game at 49 at the 1:28 mark.
A scoring hiatus came over both teams yet again until SLU finally called a timeout with 12 seconds left in the game. Kemph saved the day after hitting a 10-foot bank shot with two seconds left to play. The Billikens took the victory, 51-49.
Kemph scored almost half of SLU’s points with 21 overall. Vliet added in 10 points while Womack and Stipanovich grabbed five rebounds apiece. Price finally earned her deserved spot as the career leader in steals with 189, four of which she earned against Fordham.
SLU ended a trio of conference games when they went to Dayton on Feb. 24.
The Billikens opened up the game with an early 4-0 lead. They had a brief lapse when Dayton scored a three and a jumper to take their first lead of the game, but Kemph regained control for her team with layups on back-to-back possessions, courtesy of a steal by Price. SLU kept ahead throughout the end and took the upper hand, 17-14, going into the second quarter.
Dayton made it a point that they would not go down easy as they drew within one point at the onset of the second quarter, 17-16. However, Kemph and Vliet strung together five points to pull away once again, 22-16. Vliet gave the Billikens another boost at the halfway point with a three-pointer to make the game 27-22. However, Dayton put together a three-point play to give SLU an uncomfortable four-point lead going into half.
The Billikens and the Flyers remained steady in the third quarter on both sides of the ball. SLU could not separate themselves by more than six points at any point in the first half of the quarter. By five minutes in, SLU had a 36-31 advantage. Two offensive rebounds let Dayton capitalize on some three-point plays to draw within one, as SLU struggled to deal with Dayton center Saicha Grant-Allen. SLU kept at a safe distance, 43-38, at the close of the quarter.
Dayton’s third quarter performance appeared to give them the momentum going into the fourth quarter along with their home court advantage, and they made it clearer by sinking a three on their first possession of the period. Vliet came back and answered with a field goal of her own to make it 48-45.
Kemph’s drive to the basket off a rebound at the six-minute mark and a pass out to Covington resulted in another three-pointer to give SLU a six-point upper hand. Grant-Allen drew yet another foul to make it a three-point game once again, 51-48 in favor of the Billikens.
A Dayton guard pulled off a slick play under the basket to draw within one point of the Billikens at the three-minute mark. SLU showed their composure was still intact when Vliet sunk two free throws with ease, despite having to make a play with only one second left on the shot clock. Dayton answered with an easy layup and proved they still had a chance to come back as they only trailed by two, 54-52.
With a minute remaining, Stipanovich fouled out on Grant-Allen on an inbound pass. Even with this advantage for the Flyers, they managed to turn the ball over with 33 seconds left in the game. The Flyers fouled Kemph with eight seconds to go, and she was able to convert on one to give her team a 55-52 lead. Price made the last key play by barely tipping the inbound pass out of bounds, forcing Dayton to a restart. The Flyers attempted a three-pointer, but failed, and SLU walked away with a 55-52 victory.
Kemph and Vliet led the way offensively with 17 and 16 points, respectively, but both teams had low shooting percentages, showing how important SLU’s defense was and will be going through the season. Dayton’s size under the basket gave SLU trouble later in the game, but they managed to keep Dayton at a distance and capitalize on their early lead.
SLU wraps up their regular season at home on Feb. 27 against Rhode Island at 2 p.m. They will soon after compete in the A-10 Conference Championship March 4-6 in Richmond, Virginia.