Lady Royals find groove, grind to second round

Mar. 4—SCRANTON — Great as it had been during an unblemished regular season and a Landmark Conference championship, the University of Scranton women's basketball team learned early on Friday night that there's just something a little different about the Big Dance.

Ultimately, Saint Joseph's College of Maine learned, there's perhaps something a lot different about the Lady Royals.

Bridget Monaghan scored 19 points, Kaci Kranson added 13, and the unbeaten No. 3 Lady Royals eventually pulled away from the pesky Monks in a 64-45 win in the first round of the NCAA Division III women's tournament at the John Long Center.

Scranton will host Little East Conference champion Rhode Island College, which broke open a tight contest with a dominant fourth quarter in a 67-59 win over Rowan in the first game of the Long Center doubleheader, at 8 p.m. Saturday in the second round.

"The scores sometimes this year have been a little bit misleading, in terms of what they've ended up being. They haven't always told the whole story," Lady Royals head coach Ben O'Brien said. "We've been in a lot of tight games where big plays needed to be made, our players made them, and we kind of snowballed that a little bit. Our team is really battle-tested. We played some great teams this year, but our players, again, just keep making the plays."

Monaghan scored 11 in the second half, including a dagger of a three-point play as the buzzer sounded to halt a mini Monks run and send the Lady Royals into the fourth quarter with a 13-point edge. Reserve guard Maddie Hartnett's chipped in with several big moments on the way to a 10-point, game-high five-assist performance.

The difference when it mattered most could best be described with two dominant spurts for Scranton — a 14-0 run that consumed just about all of the second quarter's first six minutes, and an 11-1 edge in the third — and Hartnett's clutch work off the bench.

"She's someone we have a lot of confidence in," O'Brien said. "She's a big shot maker. And she's a big playmaker, on both offense and defense."

Hartnett showed it by burying her second 3-pointer in the third quarter to stem a 10-0 surge that drew the upstart Monks within 32-30 in the opening minutes of the second half. On the Lady Royals' next possession, she found center Sara Walsh with a left-handed bounce pass for a layup to start the 11-1 run.

But, her offense came as the Lady' Royals' started to in the second quarter, she insisted. From a relentless defense that kept Saint Joseph's College from finding any kind of rhythm in a second half that saw it shoot just 5 of 21 shots in the second half.

"We all say, 'Lead with your defense,'" Hartnett said. "We all come in, high-five each other, and remind each other it's defense first and go in with that mindset. I just try to let the offense come to me and hope the defense can help me get there."

Defense helps, of course. So does a bit of good fortune, sometimes.

The dagger came with the seconds ticking down in the third quarter and Monaghan looking for a set that never materialized. But she worked through the Monks defense, drew contact from guard Nina Howe, and lofted a desperation shot from just inside the 3-point arc that rattled home as the horn sounded, giving Scranton a 48-35 lead and sending them to yet another dominant finish.

"Time's winding down. I was projecting the screen. It wasn't there," she smiled. "I went the other way, and I knew it was going to be a pretty far floater. I just went for it."

Now, she and the Lady Royals will try to go for another trip to the Sweet 16 on Saturday.

Scranton 64, Saint Joseph's (Maine) 45

Saint Joseph's, Maine (23-6) — N.Howe 2-5 3-4 8; Talon 5-12 6-8 18; Hurley 1-7 2-2 5; Stapelfeld 4-9 0-0 8; J.Howe 2-8 0-0 4; Anderson 0-3 0-0 0; Whitmore 0-0 0-0 0; Brown 0-1 0-0 0; Van Zandt 0-1 0-0 0; Lebel 0-0 0-0 0; Webster 0-0 0-0 0; Fiorillo 1-1 0-0 2; Maccoux 0-0 0-0 0; Currie 0-0 0-0 0. Totals: 15-47 11-14 45

Scranton (28-0) — Walsh 1-5 1-2 3; Angelini 3-8 0-0 7; Kranson 6-17 0-0 13; Rajza 3-10 0-2 6; Monaghan 7-15 5-5 19; Bender 0-0 1-2 1; Brewer 0-0 1-2 1; Lynch 1-2 0-0 2; Sloan 0-0 0-0 0; Hartnett 4-6 0-0 10; Nolan 0-0 0-0 0; Larrabee 1-4 0-0 2; Duerr 0-0 0-0 0; Steele 0-0 0-0 0. Totals: 26-67 8-13 64

Saint Joseph's 14 11 10 10 — 45

Scranton 14 18 16 16 — 64

3-point shooting: STJ 4-14 (Talon 2-4, N.Howe 1-2, Hurley 1-4, Stapelfeld 0-1, J.Howe 0-3); SCR 4-18 (Hartnett 2-3, Angelini 1-2, Kranson 1-5, Lynch 0-1, Monaghan 0-3, Rajza 0-4). Rebounds: STJ 30 (Hurley 9); SCR 27 (Walsh 9). Assists: STJ 8 (N.Howe 2); SCR 9 (Hartnett 5). Steals: STJ 2 (Stapelfeld, J.Howe 1); SCR 7 (Angelini 2). Blocks: STJ 0; SCR 5 (Walsh, Angelini, Kranson, Rajza, Monaghan 1). Team rebounds: STJ 6; SCR 2. Turnovers: STJ 14; SCR 4. Team fouls: STJ 16; SCR 13.

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