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No. 1 Quinnipiac women’s basketball hosts No. 4 Saint Francis (Pa) in NEC Championship Game
It has been seven years since the Quinnipiac women’s basketball team has had a chance to go to the big dance. And each of those seven seasons has ended with a letdown.
Last season, the Bobcats finished behind Sacred Heart in the regular season and were upset by Monmouth in the Northeast Conference semifinals. The year before that, it was Monmouth again ending Quinnipiac’s season. And before that, LIU-Brooklyn sent the Bobcats home and so on and so forth.
This year, the Bobcats have sent Bryant and Mount St. Mary’s home with a 79-55 win on March 10 and a 63-56 win in the semifinals on March 13.
But for Quinnipiac, the players are looking to end one more season to fulfill their ultimate team goal.
Individual goals have already been met for the Bobcats. Head coach Tricia Fabbri was named NEC Coach of the Year after sweeping through the conference with an untouched 18-0 regular season record. Felicia Barron was recognized for her style of play as the NEC Defensive Player of the Year. Brittany McQuain and Jasmine Martin were also highlighted with placement on All-Conference teams.
A win on Sunday, however, has been the ultimate team goal since the first day of practice.
“What we’ve said all season long [is] what [is] the ultimate goal,” Fabbri said after Wednesday’s win which put her team in the championship game for just the second time since it joined Division I in 1998. “How united this team is in achieving one goal is what has been so special for me as a person and coach who has done this my entire life. To see how focused, unified and selfless they are in achieving that goal.”
With the ultimate goal in mind, the Bobcats have won 21 consecutive games, 20 of which have come against conference opponents. They are 29-2 overall on the season and undefeated at home at 14-0. If they can win on Sunday, they will cut down the nets at the TD Bank Sports Center for the first time in the history of the men’s or women’s programs.
Quinnipiac swept its season series against the Saint Francis (Pa.) Red Flash with a 85-69 victory on the road on Jan. 21 and a 61-50 victory at home on Feb. 16.
In the first meeting, Felicia Barron went off, scoring a career-high 28 points off of 10 of 19 shooting and also swiped seven steals. Sophomore Jasmine Martin also had a great game collecting 21 points along with six steals and five rebounds.
Alli WIlliams of Saint Francis, however, one-upped Barron, as she scored a game-high 29 points as she shot 9 for 14 from the floor. She also collected 13 rebounds and had five assists in the losing effort. Despite trailing by 17 at the break, Saint Francis mounted a tremendous comeback with a 19-1 run in the second half. Even if the Bobcats have a big lead in this game, they must know it’s not safe. especially with All-NEC first teamer Williams on the other side of the court.
Williams finished second in the conference in scoring at 17.5 points per game. She also came in fourth in rebounding grabbing 10.8 boards per game as well as second in the league in steals at 3.67 ahead of Barron who is renowned for her defensive skills.
Although Williams is the dominant member of the Saint Francis squad who has won the most NEC tournament titles in the conference (11), Nickia Gibbs is a secondary scoring threat who dropped a season-high 20 points in the quarterfinals against Central Connecticut State.
Quinnipiac didn’t let Gibbs get going in either matchup this season as she had a combined 14 points and 13 turnovers.
If Quinnipiac can contain Williams and not let Gibbs get going, they should have no problem handling the Red Flash.
Fabbri did say that she believed they were the second best defensive team in the conference behind her team. They upset No. 2 Sacred Heart in the semifinals by taking Pioneer star Ericka Norman out of the game and Fabbri expects them to do the same to her point guard, Gillian Abshire.
“They’re going to try and do the same with Boo (Abshire),” Fabbri said. “They aren’t going to let her catch it. When she does they are going to double team her.”
Fabbri has been developing a plan for when the double-team happens this week in practice and hopes it results in win number 30 on the season.
“I’m looking forward to Sunday’s game and cutting down our first net and NEC Title,” Fabbri said. “Winning that championship and everything that selection show Monday can bring and moving forward in the NCAA tournament.”