By Pete Chiodo
The Allegheny women’s basketball team didn’t quite pass its first real test of the season. But this young Lady Gators crew showed that it’s just a few study sessions away from acing the next.
Saturday at the Wise Center, in the championship game of the inaugural Greg Richards ’08 Memorial Tip-off Tournament, the Lady Gators took visiting John Carroll to overtime. But the Blue Streaks were a bucket better in the extra period, besting the host squad 67-65.
“We had a lot of first-year players on the court, and it was the first time we were really tested this year,” said Allegheny head coach Kate Costanzo. “So it was a great game to learn from.”
The Gators are now 1-1 on the year. John Carroll improved to 2-0.
“It was a great game,” said Blue Streaks coach Kristie Maravalli. “Both teams played a lot of freshmen and I thought it was a great growing experience for both of us.”
Both teams did indeed employ their share of freshman ball players. But it was Blue Streaks juniors Allison Lustig and Missy Spahar who proved to be the pivotal figures in JC’s victory.
After finishing regulation in a 54-54 tie, Allegheny scored first in OT with a pair of free throws by Rachel Vigliotti. However, Lustig swung the tide with a 3-pointer back at the other end. The Blue Streaks would not trail again.
It would stay close, however. With 52 seconds left, Allegheny’s Ann Ryan used a head fake to get to the basket, laying it in to tie the game at 62-62.
But Spahar pushed the Streaks back in front with two clutch free throws. Ryan missed a long jump shot down at the other end. The rebound ended up a jump ball that went John Carroll’s way, and the Lady Gators were forced to put JC on the foul line.
Lustig sunk both opportunities to make it 66-62. Kendall Hoffman cut into that lead with a bank shot with 5.8 seconds left. But Lustig was put back on the foul line. She sunk the first and missed the follow up, leaving the door open for Allegheny at 67-64 with 4.8 ticks remaining.
The clock was down to 1.9 seconds when the Streaks put Emma Pellicano on the foul line. The freshman made the first and then missed the second. The two teams tussled for the rebound. It ended up in Allegheny’s possession, but too late to put it back up to score.
“We had a chance,” said Costanzo. “Emma did a great job of missing that free throw. And we got the rebound we were looking for. We just couldn’t score it.”
Spahar, even though she played the final seven minutes of regulation and then overtime with four fouls, ended up leading John Carroll with 23 points and was named tournament MVP after the game. Lustig, another all-tournament team pick, had 19 points and was 4-for-5 on 3-point attempts. Guard Erin Mog added 12 points.
For Allegheny, Pellicano ended the game with an 18-point, 12-rebound double-double. She earned all-tournament status with that effort.
Daryl Ford scored 15 points before fouling out with 1:36 left in regulation.
Ryan added 12 points.
Allegheny ended up turning the ball over 29 times, compared to 26 for John Carroll. That was a switch from the first half in which JC had 17 turnovers while Allegheny had 15.
That was reflected in the score, with Allegheny leading 22-20 at the half.
The Gators expanded that lead to 45-37 at the halfway point of the second half.
“That’s when we decided that enough was enough and we started pressing a little,” said Maravalli.
With John Carroll upping the defensive pressure, Allegheny picked the wrong time to take its foot off the gas.
“They got us a little out of our up-tempo style,” said Costanzo. “And I think we started playing more conservatively. We had the lead. That’s something we can learn from. We need to keep the tempo up throughout the entire game.”
Led by Lustig and Spahar, the Blue Streaks battled back, even taking a 54-51 lead with under a minute to play.
Hoffman drove the baseline for a Gators bucket to make it 54-53 with 44 seconds left.
That was enough time for both teams to throw the ball away. John Carroll missed a 3-point attempt down on its end. But Allegheny threw away the ensuing possession after a timeout. Then John Carroll tossed away an inbound pass after its timeout.
Emma Pellicano picked up the second loose ball and was instantly fouled. She went to the line with 5.8 seconds left to play and the opportunity to give the Gators the lead. She missed the first, but drained the second to salvage a tie.
“Emma felt really bad about missing that free throw,” said Costanzo. “But she did so many other things for us. She had a double-double. She had a great night.”