RICHMOND, Va.- Second Team All-Conference forward Chelsea Woods enjoyed a torrid shooting night, going 6-for-9 from the field and hitting all nine free throws to lead No. 3 Saint Joseph's to the Atlantic 10 Women's Basketball Championship semifinals for the first time since 2013 as they eliminated No. 6 La Salle 66-48 in the last quarterfinal on Friday evening at the Richmond (Va.) Coliseum.
Woods, who led all scorers with 21 points, added 10 rebounds, while Sarah Vellieux registered 12 points for the Hawks (17-13), who shot 49 percent from the floor and connected on 16-of-17 shots at the line. The victory was their third over their Big Five rival this season.
"One of focal points today was defense and rebounding, which I thought we did very well, and we also held them under 50 points," said Saint Joseph's head coach Cindy Griffin, whose team overcame a 3-9 start to win 13 of their last 17 games. "We have great kids that want to win. There's a lot of tradition at Saint Joe's, but it took time for the team to understand that tradition. They know now what the Hawks are all about."
One area of improvement Saint Joseph's will look for Saturday is in the turnover department, committing 20 in the victory, while dishing out 14 assists.
"If you have a turnover, get it back on defense, never let you head hang down," Woods said when asked about how to overcome the turnovers.
La Salle (17-13) was led by First Team All-Conference guard Amy Griffin, who scored 18 points and grabbed seven rebounds. Adreana Miller also was in double figures with 14 points, but the Explorers struggled from the field, shooting just 25.5 percent with just two assists to go with 11 turnovers.
"Saint Joseph's is a tough team. I knew coming in we'd have to play over our heads after getting us twice in the regular season," explained La Salle head coach Jeff Williams, named the Atlantic 10 Coach of The Year. "We have young kids inside, and we didn't get scoring. We knew their inside would be a problem with Chelsea (Woods)."
The Explorers' seven-win improvement has Williams hopeful of even bigger things in the future for his squad.
"There are no nine to fivers here, that when the whistle blows, you clock out," Williams noted. "Our kids have learned this season how to grind it out, and that will help us for the future."
Saint Joseph's advances to face Duquesne in the second semifinal on Saturday, tip-oof is scheduled for 1:30pm. The Dukes defeated two-time defending champion George Washington, 62-58 on Friday in their quarterfinal matchup.