Women's basketball: Windham's Talon leads St. Joseph's to NCAA tourney
Feb. 28—Hannah Talon said she trusts her St. Joseph's College women's basketball teammates. Especially point guard and roommate Nina Howe.
So when Howe, a junior point guard from York, told Talon, a junior shooting guard from Windham, to crank up the offense late in the third quarter of Sunday's Great Northeast Athletic Conference championship game, Talon listened.
"I had nine points at halftime and didn't score in the third quarter," Talon said. "I was getting ready to sub into the game with Nina and she was like, 'Hannah, you've got to get going. You've got to pick us up.' "
The Monks were trailing rival Emmanuel College, 49-43, with an automatic berth to the NCAA Division III tournament on the line when Talon and Howe entered the game with 2:06 to play in the third.
Talon scored 18 points in the fourth quarter. She made seven layups, one mid-range jumper and two free throws, propelling St. Joseph's to a 74-67 victory and its first trip to the NCAA tournament since 2019.
"I mean it feels amazing. This is something we've been working for for the past four-and-a-half months and to accomplish that is a big relief," Talon said Tuesday while on a break between classes.
Freshman Elisabeth Stapelfeld of Brookline, New Hampshire, got the comeback rolling with a pair of layups in the final 30 seconds of the third quarter, cutting the lead to 51-47.
Then Talon, who is 5-foot-8, started attacking the basket.
"She was either finishing the basket or getting two foul shots," said Howe, who has played with Talon since seventh grade when both were in the Blue Wave travel program. "This past year she's gained more confidence with attacking the basket, realizing she does have that ability."
The Monks (23-5) will open the tournament at 8:30 p.m. Friday at Scranton University, which is 27-0 and ranked No. 3 in the D3hoops.com poll. While the Monks are making an impressive sixth trip to the NCAAs in the past 10 years and seventh overall, Scranton has made the tournament 10 straight years and 35 times overall. The winner of Friday's game will face the winner of Rowan (20-8) vs. Rhode Island College (24-3) on Saturday.
"I think it's going to be an experience that obviously not everyone gets to have and we intend to make the most of it," Howe said. "(Scranton is) the ones that have the target on their back."
In its two most recent NCAA appearances, St. Joe's won its first game then lost to the host institution (Amherst in 2018, Ithaca in 2019) in the second round.
"Scranton is a program that is nationally recognized as being one of the best Division III women's programs in the country year-in and year-out," said Mike McDevitt, 63, in his 30th season as the women's basketball coach at St. Joseph's.
Talon leads the team in scoring at 15 points per game. In three GNAC tournament games she averaged 26.3 points, shooting 62.2 percent from the floor and 85.7 percent at the line.
"We're kind of an undersized team and Hannah's one of our bigger players. That might seem a disadvantage but not on the offensive end," McDevitt said. "Those teams with bigger players have to guard her on the perimeter and she's been able to drive and get to the rim and she's also a pretty good 3-point shooter."
Howe has started every game at the point. She averages 9.2 points and 4.1 assists. Stapelfeld is the younger sister of Cassandra Stapelfeld, who led St. Joe's in scoring in 2022. Elisabeth Stapelfeld has stepped in and averaged 10.3 points and was recently named the Rookie of the Year by the Maine Women's Basketball Coaches Association. Angelica Hurley, a junior from Groveland, Massachusetts, is second on the team in scoring (11.6 per game) and leads the team in rebounding (7.5 per game).
Seniors Katie Whitmore of South Portland and Mikayla Van Zandt of Westbrook, and freshmen Logan Brown of Brunswick, Lindsay Fiorillo of Scarborough, and Maddie Lebel of Hermon are also members of the team.