Senior guard was named First-Team All-Atlantic 10 this season. Courtesy of Keegan Gupta.
Sports Staff Writer
The Dayton Flyers women’s basketball team advanced to the Atlantic 10 Championship Game with a 58-50 win over the Saint Louis Bilikens in Saturday’s semifinal at UD Arena.
In the 8-point win, the Flyers were led by senior guard Jayla Scaife, who scored 14 points on 5-8 shooting. Scaife picked up where redshirt junior forward Erin Whalen left off in yesterday’s quarterfinal game – 6-7 from 3-point range – by shooting 4-5 from beyond the 3-point arc.
“I just pray that one night, everyone will be on,” Flyers’ head coach Shauna Green said. “I keep saying … it has to happen sometime, and it hasn’t. Imagine if Erin and Jayla are both going. But this team is so special because I have three people on the bench that could be starting… This is a really deep team and they’ve just really bought into their roles and they’ve made a lot of sacrifices for the betterment of the team so we can win games… it’s been such a fun group to coach because of (the sacrifices).”
The game started inconspicuously for both sides, as both teams showed a bit of nervous energy with 3 combined turnovers early. The Flyers held onto an 11-8 lead at the first quarter media timeout with five different scorers on the board with 4:10 remaining in the quarter.
Scaife took over the final four minutes of the quarter, grabbing a pair of rebounds, knocking down another three and adding a buzzer-beater, put-back layup as the first quarter buzzer sounded.
Whalen took the ball quickly up the court in transition as the clock got to four seconds, she tried to get a floater to fall from the top of the key. The ball hit the side of the rim and the lower backboard, but Scaife was there with the follow as the buzzer sounded to give the Flyers a 23-10 lead at the end of the first quarter.
Scaife improved to 3-3 from 3-point range, and the Flyers built their lead to 28-10 before Bilikens’ sophomore guard Myia Clark took a hard fall to the court with 7:56 remaining in the second quarter. She appeared to suffer a head or neck injury but got up after lying on the court for a couple of minutes. Clark sat out the remainder of the first half but came back into the game at the start of the third quarter.
The Flyers’ 14-0 run was ended by a Bilikens basket, but Scaife once again hit a 3-pointer to give the Flyers a 33-13 lead with 6:47 remaining in the second quarter.
Bilikens freshman guard Rachel Kent finally got on the scoreboard after her 22-point performance against UMass yesterday with a 3-pointer to cut the Flyers’ lead to 17. A 3-pointer from Bilikens’ sophomore guard Ciaja Harbison and another from Kent, followed by a layup after good ball movement forced the Flyers to call a timeout with 1:58 remaining in the first half, the lead at just 33-24.
Flyers’ sophomore forward Kyla Whitehead added a layup for the final points of the first half to give the Flyers a 35-24 lead heading into halftime. At the break, Scaife led the way with 14 points on 5-8 shooting from the field and 4-5 shooting from 3-point range. She was supplemented by senior forward Jordan Wilmoth, who had 6 points and 5 rebounds at halftime.
Both teams went ice cold in the third quarter, as the Flyers and Bilikens scored nine points each. The Bilikens shot 4-16 from the field, while the Flyers shot just 2-15, but kept an 11-point lead going into the fourth quarter.
At the first media timeout of the third quarter with 4:57 remaining, the Flyers held a 39-29 lead. Three minutes later, an effort play by Whitehead kept the ball alive for a big three for the Flyers.
On a long offensive rebound opportunity, Whitehead kept the ball in bounds and crashed into the screen on the scorers table, keeping the ball alive to set up a 3-pointer for senior guard Jenna Giacone to give the Flyers a 44-31 lead with 2:14 remaining in the third quarter.
Rebounding was a key part of the game for the Flyers, as each of the eight players who checked in to the game grabbed at least one rebound for a combined 41 rebounds in the game.
“(Every player grabbing a rebound is) big, because that hasn’t been the case,” Green said. “Our philosophy, what we talk about is defense first, and then we gotta rebound, and then we go into our offense. Because you can’t run, you can’t play fast, you can’t play free if you don’t get stops and you don’t rebound clean… in order for us to be in a position to beat Saint Louis, we had to rebound…half of (rebounding) is heart and work and boxing out with discipline.”
The Bilikens added two points to cut the lead to 11, but the Flyers held a 44-33 lead going into the fourth quarter.
The teams exchanged baskets through the first five minutes of the fourth quarter, Harbison leading the way for the Bilikens with 5 fourth quarter points to cut the Flyers’ lead to 50-42 at the final media timeout with 5:23 remaining in the game.
A 3-pointer by Scaife with 2:36 remaining stopped another back-and-forth of points to push the Flyers led to 57-48. Kent got the Bilikens’ final basket of the game on a driving layup with 22 seconds remaining, but was inefficient in the game, scoring just 10 points on 4-12 shooting after a 22-point game against UMass Friday afternoon.
When the final buzzer sounded, the Flyers advanced to the A10 Tournament Championship Game with a 58-50 victory over the Bilikens. Scaife finished with 25 points on 5-8 shooting from 3-point range, and Whitehead added 7 points and 10 rebounds.
Defense is the Flyers’ top focus, and that was shown with their ability to block 8 Bilikens’ shots and steal the ball 4 times, while also forcing 11 turnovers.
“More than anything, I feel like we did a good job shutting down their posts,” said Wilmoth, who blocked two shots. “(Bilikens’ senior forward) Kendra Wilken is a great post player, (sophomore forward Brooke) Flowers as well, we just kept them high, stayed straight up (to avoid fouls). It’s a big thing we pride ourselves on, because we do tend to foul a little bit. But we just stayed poised.”
The Flyers advance to the A10 Tournament Championship Game to be played Sunday morning against either VCU or Fordham. The Flyers won their only matchup of the season against VCU – 72-67 on Feb. 16 at UD Arena – and split with Fordham – a 48-44 win at UD Arena on Jan. 26 and a 50-38 loss in the Bronx Feb. 22.