By Mel Greenberg
PHILADELPHIA - Top Seeded Columbia Blue, highlighted by St. Joseph's stars, and No. 5 Red, dominated by Division II West Chester players, have advanced to the finals of the Philadelphia Department of Recreation NCAA Women's Summer League.
Columbia Blue, which finished the regular summer competition at 10-1, beat No. 6 Vegas Gold, 74-68, in one semifinal Monday night, while No. 5 Red upset No. 2 Kelly Green, 45-44, at Parkwood Youth Organization in Northeast Philadelphia at DunksFerry and Mechanicsville Roads near the Academy Road Exit of I-95.
The winners will meet at Parkwood in the first of a best-of-three at 7 p.m. on Wednesday night, with Game 2 to be played at the same time and site Monday night. If necessary, a deciding game will be played a week from Wednesday night.
A year ago, the performance of Drexel players in the league became an good omen for what turned into a run to a first-ever Colonial Athletic Association title and NCAA bid in the winter.
Judging by Monday's performance, th future could be bright for St. Joseph's coach Cindy Griffin.
Incoming Hawks freshman Ashley Robinson had 15 points for Columbia Blue, while senior Brittany Ford scored 12, and incoming freshman Shelby Smith scored 11.
The overall leader, however, was Cheyney's Angel Stephens, who scored 16. She was a first-ever last-minute insertion allowed by commissioner David Kessler.
"Brittany Schmelz of Swarthmore hadn't played all summer and they asked if they could make a change and I decided, `Why not?" he said. "Stephens is very good."
Two other Cheyney players are also on the team: Angel Henderson and Charnelle Taylor.
Columbia dominated on the boards and rallied from a 57-50 deficit in the second half, launching a 16-1 run.
Vegas Gold got 17 points from former Holy Family star Kelly Killion, while recent La Salle grad Antonio Gale scored 16 points, Drexel's Marissa Crane scored 12, and recent Holy Family grad Melissa Brooks scored nine.
In the other semifinal, Red rallied from an early second-half deficit of nine points. The team had rallied from a 15-point deficit in the quarterfinals against Gold.
Red's Shamyra Hammond of West Chester scored 12 points, Columbia University's Megan Griffith scored 8, West Chester's Natalie Winters scored seven and recent La Salle grad Margaret Elderton scored six points.
St. Bonaventure's Dana Mitchell, who won the league scoring title, had nine points for Kelly Green, as did St. Joseph's Katie Kuester, the daughter of new NBA Detroit Pistons coach John Kuester. Princeton's Laura Johnson scored eight points.