If the final minute of a basketball game is thrilling, everything that happened in the previous 39 really doesn’t matter.
Sure, the shooting was poor and the offense was sloppy throughout most of the first game of the 2008 Atlantic Ten Tournament between Richmond and Duquesne, but the last 60 seconds were a nail biter.
The No. 8 Spiders, despite shooting 37 percent for the game and committing 17 turnovers were able to hold off the No. 9 Dukes, 58-56, at Saint Joseph’s Alumni Memorial Fieldhouse on Friday.
With the win, Richmond advances on to round two to take on the No. 1-seeded Owls on Saturday at noon.
Temple coach Dawn Staley was in attendance at the game with her coaching staff, as well as former women’s basketball standout Cynthia Jordan, who graduated in 2005 and is currently a graduate assistant of the team.
After the game, Staley acknowledged the fact that Richmond is not the same team her Owls beat on Jan. 23 in Va.
“They’re a lot different than what they were when we first played them,” Staley said. “[Freshman Brittani] Shells is going to be more aggressive than she was our last meeting and [freshman Crystal] Goring is a very smart player.
“We just got to play our game.”
If the game vs. Duquesne was any hint of what Staley and the Owls are to expect from Shells, it will be as if they are facing a completely different player.
The 5-foot-7 guard scored only two points on 1-of-12 from the floor in the contest with Temple, but that was before she developed the swagger that was clearly present vs. Duquesne. She scored a memorable 19 against the Dukes.
Duquesne guard Kristi Little who struggled from the floor, hitting only 4-of-16 shots, hit her only three of the game and tied it up at 56 with less than a minute to go.
“When [Little] hit that three, I was a little nervous, and I was like I don’t want to lose this game,” Shells said. “Going back to last year, I know [Richmond] got out in the first round and coming to this team, I didn’t want to do that.”
From there, the Delaware native took things into her own hands.
Following a timeout, the ball was inbounded to Shells. A few dribbles, a crossover, and within seconds, she found herself with an open shot just above the foul line.
Swish. Spiders up two with 30 seconds to go.
“I practice that shot all the time, so when I went to go take it, I felt comfortable,” Shells said about what ended up the game winning basket. “Just one move, I figured she would bite on [it], and so I just decided which ever way she went, [I’d go] the opposite.”
Duquesne had trouble getting a shot off on its last possession, but with about three seconds remaining, Little hoisted up a three from the top of the arc.
The miss, and the loss, left Little in tears.
“We just fell short,” the junior, who scored all 12 of her points in the second half said. “We didn’t get the shot we wanted [on the last play], but we still got off a three, so we can’t complain. We start rebuilding for next year now. We’re going to comeback next year and hopefully go further than we did this year.”
Richmond, on the other hand, is still thinking about this year. And Shells can’t wait for the rematch with Temple.
“[Against] Temple in the regular season, I was very nervous,” Shells said. “I had two points because I couldn’t even get myself there mentally. [But] I’m just glad to have another opportunity to play Temple.”
FLYERS, RAMS, AND HAWKS MOVE ON
The Richmond-Duquesne game was just the first of four that was played Friday at Saint Joseph’s.
No. 5 Dayton defeated No. 12 Massachusetts in the second game, despite career numbers for Mass. senior, Kate Mills. The 6-foot-1 senior put together a 17 point, 19 rebound day, but the Flyers still won, 57-51. The 19 rebounds were the third most any player has gotten in A-10 Tournament history, as well as a career high for Mills.
Senior Nikki Oakland posted 20 points and 13 rebounds for the Flyers.
The No. 10 Rams were the only team on Day One to pull an upset. They defeated the seventh-ranked Bonnies, 61-49.
Rhode Island will look to convert a much bigger upset in the next round, when the Rams will be challenging the No. 2 George Washington Colonials.
In the final game of the quadruple-header, Saint Joseph’s came out on its own floor and defeated Saint Louis, 71-58.
The No. 11 Billikens were lucky to only lose by 13 because they allowed the No. 6 Hawks to shoot 56 percent from the field.
Next up for Saint Joseph’s is third-ranked Xavier.
Jeff Appelblatt can be reached at email@example.com.