Tuesday, July 28, 2015

Cherokee High's Laura Sweeney Spurs Villanova Women to Win over St. Joseph's

By Mel Greenberg

Cherokee High's Laura Sweeney Spurs Villanova Women to Win over St. Joseph's


By Mel Greenberg

VILLANOVA – A year ago in a game that appeared to set Big Five women’s basketball back to its beginnings in 1980, Villanova let a low-scoring game slip away in regulation and then in triple overtime, allowing St. Joseph’s a victory in the long-running series between the two schools.

On Wednesday night, it appeared the Wildcats might let the Hawks strike back again Villanova held a 28-20 lead in the second half when St. Joseph’s went on a 9-0 tear and took a slim one-point advantage with 13 minutes, 10 seconds left in the game at the Pavilion on the Main Line.

That, however, was to be the St. Joseph’s high water mark on the Hawk incursion.

Villanova’s Heather Scanlon nailed consecutive shots, including a three-pointer and the Wildcats (5-2, 2-0 Big Five) went on to dominate on a 22-4 run, turning a close battle into a 5q6-42 lopsided victory.

Red-shirt freshman Laura Sweeney, a graduate of Cherokee High across the river in Marlton, N.J., scored 14 of her game-high 15 points and in that spurt. Scanlon finished with 10 points, the same total reached by Brittany Ford, Mariame Djouara and Amy Gillespie for the Hawks (3-6, 0-1).

“Laura Sweeney took over the game,” Villanova coach Harry Perretta said. “There’s no doubt who the most talented player on our team is. The difference is right now she’s still finding her way.

“So she has some really, really big games and sometimes she doesn’t play as well,” Perretta said. “She got in foul trouble in the first half. The second half I decided we were having trouble with their guards, we couldn’t get the ball by their guards, so we just gave the ball to Laura to see if she could use her offensive game skills to break the game open and she did.

“There’s no secret. The problem is she has to learn the offense, too.”

Understanding the offense has become a problem for the Hawks, who once again sputtered in a game that featured many players who go against each other in the offseason in the Philadelphia Department of Recreation’s NCAA Women’s Summer League.

“They scored in bunches and we weren’t able to sustain that,” St. Joseph’s Cindy Griffin said after the Wildcats caught the Hawks last night for total wins in Big Five women’s history.

Villanova is now 88-33, while St. Joseph’s is 88-31 although Temple has been the dominated team in the current decade.

“Anytime you have defensive breakdowns when Villanova is scoring in bunches it’s hard to recover and you’re not putting the ball in the basket,” Griffin said. “You through droughts This is another game when went through droughts and our offense affected our defense and it’s disappointing thing with some veterans out on the court. We expect more from them.”

St. Joseph’s next hosts Drexel on Sunday afternoon while Villanova will host Binghamton Friday night at 5 p.m.
That is a time change for the Wildcats because of the football team hosting William & Mary several hours later in a Football Championship Subdivision national semifinal game.

The Guru, who will be at Temple Thursday night, is signing off for now because he is working on the laptop off the battery – still a lot of juice left – like the juice waiting for him to start his nighttime sunrise pre-sleep breakfast at his all-night diner.

He did have a conversation, however, with former La Salle star Cheryl Reeve, the newly appointed coach of the WNBA Minnesota Lynx. Some of that will appear in the next report.

-- Mel

Inquirer Sports Columnist
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About this blog
Mel Greenberg covers college and pro women’s basketball for the Philadelphia Inquirer, where he has worked for 38 years. Greenberg pioneered national coverage of the game, including the original Top 25 women's college poll. His knowledge has earned him nicknames such as "The Guru" and "The Godfather. He was inducted into the Women's Basketball Hall of Fame in 2007.

Click here for Mel's list of All-Decade players from Philadelphia-area schools.

Other contributors

Jonathan Tannenwald is a producer with Philly.com. In addition to covering the local college scene, he spent two years as the Washington Mystics beat writer for Women's Hoops Guru. He also writes his own blog, Soft Pretzel Logic, which covers men's college basketball, football, and other sports.

Kathleen Radebaugh is a recent graduate of St. Joseph's University in Philadelphia. She covered women's basketball for the school's newspaper, The Hawk, and served as sports editor her sophomore year. She was also a four-year member of the varsity crew team.

Erin Semagin Damio covers the University of Connecticut and the WNBA's Connecticut Sun for the blog, and contributes other features. The Storrs, Conn., native also attends Northeastern University, where she is a coxswain on the varsity crew team.

Acacia O'Connor is based in Washington, D.C., where she reports on the Mystics and the college basketball scene in the nation's capital. A graduate of Vassar college, she played on the varsity women's basketball team and was editor of the student newspaper.

Click on any of the contributors' names above to e-mail them.

Reach Mel at poll416@gmail.com.

Mel Greenberg Inquirer Sports Columnist
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