RICHMOND, Va. - The top-seeded Dayton Flyers overcame a slow start to shoot sixty percent from the field in the middle quarters to build a lead, then held off Atlantic 10 Player of The Year Jackie Kemph and Saint Louis down the stretch for a 75-65 win in the first 2017 Atlantic 10 Women's Basketball Championship Semifinal Saturday at the Richmond (Va.) Coliseum.
Four Flyers scored in double figures as Second Team All-Conference honorees Saicha Grant-Allen and Jenna Burdette led Dayton (21-9) with 13 points each. Redshirt junior Alex Harris scored 12 points and pulled down 18 rebounds, leading the defensive charge against Sadie Stipanovich of Saint Louis. Stipanovich, who became the Billikens' all-time leading scorer Friday in their quarterfinal win over Fordham with 27 points, was held to just six points on 1-of-10 shooting from the field.
"We knew coming in this would be an extremely difficult game. It was about having a one possession at a time mentality, which we did," noted first-year Dayton head coach Shauna Green. "We had a ton of adversity in this game. Players came off the bench and made plays to help us through our foul trouble. It was a tough win."
Both teams struggled with foul trouble, and the Flyers lost Burdette to fouls in the fourth period. Green noted it was the first time this season foul issues came from their perimeter, meaning performances by Harris and others inside were magnified down the stretch.
"Defense is our game. Coach instills in us to defend first before anything," Harris explained. "I just went out there and tried to grab every rebound that I could."
Saint Louis (24-8) got a 27-point performance from Atlantic 10 Player of The Year Jackie Kemph, hitting five of her six three-point shots while dishing out six assists. Jenny Vliet added 13 points while Jordyn Frantz scored 10. The Billikens struggled on the boards in the pivotal third period as Dayton grabbed 14 rebounds to just five for Saint Louis.
"We had a great start to the game, but we came out a little flat in the third quarter, but this is not a game where I'm disappointed with effort," said Saint Louis head coach Lisa Stone. "We've fallen short in this game two years in a row, and it stings, with a chance at an NCAA bid on the line. But it does motivate us for the future, and we've still got basketball to play."
Dayton advances to its fourth Atlantic 10 Women's Basketball Championship Game in the last six seasons and will look to win their first title since 2012 against the winner of the second semifinal between #3 Saint Joseph's and #7 Duquesne on Sunday at Noon. The game will be televised on ESPNU.