When the roller coaster ride finally ended, it was Mariame Djouara and her team who walked away with the win.
The Hawks squandered a 15-point lead and went down by as many as four late in the second before surging late to score a 68-62 upset of Dayton. Djouara led the way with a game-high 13 points and added eight rebounds to ice secure the win for St. Joe’s.
“Especially because we know the next one is going to be on the road, and after losing a tough one to Temple, we knew this was the one we really, really needed to get,” said St. Joe’s head coach Cindy Griffin. “I though we shot the ball real well, obviously in the first half. Hopefully this is a stepping stone for us because it gave us a lot of confidence.”
The Hawks (9-9, 2-1 A-10) jumped on the Flyers early behind lights-out shooting from behind the arc, hitting seven threes in the first half as part of their second highest first-half total this year. They stretched the advantage to as high as 15, and entered the halftime break up 13, a margin that was only that close thanks to three late turnovers by St. Joe’s.
Dayton (14-4, 2-1 A-10) started to chip away at the lead early in the second half, and surged ahead with seven and a half minutes left on the strength of a 15-0 run keyed by Kayla Moses and a stagnating St. Joe’s attack. Two free throws from Justine Raterman pushed the lead up to four with 4:42 to play, the Flyers largest margin of the game.
But the Hawks were undeterred, as Katie Kuester came off the bench just 10 seconds later to nail a three, her fourth of the game, to cut the lead to one and start the Hawks on a 13-3 flourish to end the game and seal the victory. It was a play Griffin called the play of the game.
“We we’re down four, and we were in a scoring drought,” she said. “I think that was a huge thing for us because it was a long three. It’s one of those threes that’s really not expected in the flow of offense, so we got a great deal from making it. That was a big turning point for us.”
But Griffin stressed the team effort on both sides of the ball, led by the backcourt duo of Ashley Prim and Djouara.
“A couple of our kids made plays,” she said. “Prim made plays; she just has that refuse-to-lose type of attitude. It started out with our defense getting stops when we needed to get stops. And obviously going to Mariame down the stretch, she was able to come through for us, and that’s what good players do.”
The Hawks finished 11-22 from beyond the arc, led by Kuester’s four trifectas and two each from Dominique Bryant, Shelby Smith, and Michelle Baker. Kuester finished with 12 points, Baker chipped in nine, and Brittany Ford added eight, to offset six turnovers, for a St. Joe’s bench that outscored a normally prolific Dayton reserve squad 36-21. Nine of the Hawks’ 10 players scored in the game. It was a challenge issued by Griffin before the game that her players responded to.
Dayton was led by 11 points each from Raterman and Casey Nance, while Kristin Daugherty joined them in double figures with 10.
The Hawks hit the road for their next game, traveling to Charlotte on Saturday.
-Matthew De George ’10