Flyers suffer heartbreaking 64-57 loss to Saint Louis on Senior Day

Araion Bradshaw, one of the seniors recognized Saturday, dished out 8 assists in the Flyers’ 64-57 loss to Saint Louis on Senior Day. Photo courtesy of Flyer News.

Peter Burtnett
Sports Editor

The Dayton Flyers women’s basketball team suffered a heartbreaking 64-57 loss to Saint Louis on Senior Day Saturday, their first A10 loss at home since Dec. 2016.

Seniors Erin Whalen, Araion Bradshaw and Jenna Giacone were recognized after the game with framed jerseys and special messages from their families and loved ones. 

“I just hate it, I hate to lose on Senior Day,” head coach Shauna Green said. “For such a great group, I wanted this game so badly for those three guys. So hopefully they’ll have some more games, hopefully for another next year. But (they’re) just a great, great group of seniors this year.”

The teams exchanged baskets early, but after the Billikens tied the score at 4, the Flyers went on an 8-0 run over the next three minutes to take a 12-4 lead into the first quarter media timeout with 3:51 remaining in the quarter.

Green said the Flyers start was good, but the Billikens switched to zone and caused trouble for the Flyers the rest of the game.

Over the remainder of the first quarter, it was the Flyers’ turn to go cold from the field, missing their last eight shots of the quarter as the Billikens trimmed the deficit to 12-8 at the end of the first. With both teams shooting a combined 8-31 from the field, there were plenty of misses to go around. 

The offensive struggles continued for the Flyers, and a three from the Billikens with 6:12 left in the second quarter gave the visitors their first lead of the game. The Flyers were able to slow down the run enough by responding with a hook shot from freshman center Tenin Magassa, and the game was tied at 19 heading into the second quarter media timeout with 3:01 remaining in the quarter.

As the teams exchanged baskets, it seemed like the game would be tied at halftime. However, a last-second turnaround jumper by the Billikens’ freshman guard Natalie McNeal gave Saint Louis a 27-25 halftime lead.

Trailing at halftime for just the second time all season – first in the Dec. 6 loss to Akron – the Flyers were held to just 26 percent from the field. Although the Flyers led other key categories – fewer turnovers, more rebounds – they trailed the Billikens’ 43 percent first half shooting by a wide margin. 

For the Billikens, the second half started as the first half ended, and it was a disaster for the Flyers as Saint Louis began the third quarter on a 10-0 run, forcing a timeout by Green trailing 37-25 with 8:09 left in the third quarter. 

The Flyers responded right out of the timeout with a layup by Giacone and forced a shot clock violation on the other end, and the Flyers were able to cut into the deficit, trimming the difference to 39-31 at the third quarter media timeout with 4:36 remaining. 

Whalen knocked down a three to cut the deficit to five, forcing a Saint Louis timeout with 3:21 left in the quarter. The Charlotte, N.C., native and junior forward Kyla Whitehead combined for the last 14 points of the quarter for the Flyers, who went into the fourth quarter trailing just 46-45 after a buzzer-beating driving layup by Whitehead to close the third.

Although the Billikens started the fourth quarter on the right foot, opening up a five-point lead, the Flyers stormed back with a 7-0 run over a 2:13 period, culminating in a Whalen three to give the Flyers a 52-50 lead. The Billikens called timeout to stop the bleeding with 5:26 left in the game.

However, the Billikens recovered after the timeout, tying the game within seconds, and made five of six field goals to take a 61-56 lead with 1:05 left in the game and Magassa headed to the free throw line.

The freshman center split the pair, and while the Flyers prevented the Billikens from scoring on the other end, a lot of time elapsed, and the Flyers called timeout trailing by four with 29.8 seconds to go.

On the Flyers’ possession, both Giacone and Magassa failed to make shots in the paint, and the Billikens rebounded the ball with 21.9 seconds left, calling timeout. With a chance to stretch the lead, Billikens junior guard Ciaja Harbison missed both free throws, but the Flyers were unable to capitalize, first having a pass intended for Whalen in the corner knocked out-of-bounds, and then the inbounds pass stolen by the Billikens. 

This time after she was fouled, Harbison knocked down both free throws to give the Billikens a 63-57 lead with 10.7 seconds left. The Billikens knocked down one more free throw after a fruitless UD possession, and the Flyers fell for the first time in A10 play this season, 64-57.

The loss pushes the Flyers to 12-2 in the season and 11-1 in A10 play. Whalen led the way with 20 points, and Whitehead added 18 points and 8 rebounds. Magassa finished with 19 rebounds and 9 points. 

The Flyers shot just 29.6 percent from the field, and this proved to be the difference as the Flyers led almost all other statistical categories.

“In the second half, I thought we started really well,” Green said. “We were right back in it, and I thought we showed a lot of fight and played a lot harder and did the things that we needed to do. But at the end of the day, you can’t shoot 29 percent and beat a good team like Saint Louis.”

Green said she doesn’t look forward to looking at the film after the team missed “so many layups.”

Although the Flyers lost the game, dampening the Senior Day celebration and causing some teary eyes from the seniors, they still have a chance to finish the season strong, with one road game left before the A10 tournament.

Senior Day (l to r): Erin Whalen, head coach Shauna Green, Araion Bradshaw, Jenna Giacone

“I wanted (the team) to know the season’s not done,” Green said, “we’re probably gonna see these guys again. And I told them (Saint Louis was) the better team tonight… But I wanted them to understand too, how much it means for teams to come in here and beat Dayton on our home floor.”

Green said she wanted the team, especially the young players, to understand that being the number one or two team in a conference puts a target on their back.

“(I wanted them) to look at what it means to (Saint Louis). I just wanted to make sure that they watched that and so that it fuels them a little bit more to keep working and to be better from it and be back and be ready to go and keep working hard.”

Green added that while the team didn’t want to learn from losing, it does provide that opportunity to “get your attention.”

I don’t ever want to take a loss to learn. But it’s really hard to go undefeated in the conference season, too… We haven’t lost many at home, and that makes it a little bit tougher, and we haven’t lost many on senior night… but at the end of the day, we lost a really good team and a really hard fought game.”

Next up, the Flyers travel to North Carolina to face Davidson (7-11, 4-8 A10) and close the regular season Feb. 28 at 1 p.m.

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