PHILADELPHIA – There must be something about the sight of the Saint Joe’s logo that makes the basket look extra big for Marah Strickland. After setting a career-high with 31 points against the fellow Jesuit institution a few weeks ago, the graduate student exploded for 22 points on Saint Joe’s home court in the Atlantic 10 Quarterfinals, leading Fordham to a 65-48 victory over Saint Louis.
Senior guard Arielle Collins also had a big quarterfinal for the Rams, scoring 13 points and dishing out five assists in the win. Samantha Clark also finished in double figures with ten points and six boards, while Erin Rooney chipped in nine points, six assists and six rebounds.
The win advances Fordham to the semifinals of the A-10 Championship for the first time ever, where they will take on the Temple Owls. Tip off for that game is scheduled for 4 PM Sunday.
Saint Louis got on the board first Saturday night, as Mallory Eggert put back her own miss just over a minute into the game.
Fordham, however, responded back in a big way. The Rams converted from downtown on their next three possessions, as Strickland made a pair of threes and Collins drained from deep to put Fordham up 9-2 just over three minutes into the game.
Saint Louis scored four in a row over the next three minutes to cut the deficit to three, 9-6, but from there the Rams found their scoring touch once again. Samantha Clark scored four points on an 8-2 Rams run, putting Fordham ahead 17-8 with 10:36 to go in the half.
The Billikens narrowed the lead to six on a Courtney Webb jumper with just over six minutes to go, but the veteran duo of Strickland and Collins stepped up again. They each hit from downtown on consecutive possessions, and then Strickland found Collins underneath for a layup, capping an 8-0 run and putting Rams ahead by 14, 30-16, with 4:27 to go in the half.
Fordham would extend the lead by two heading into the half, taking a 34-18 advantage into the locker room.
Strickland had an outstanding first half, pouring in 15 points on 5-10 shooting. Collins also reached double figures in the first stanza, netting 10, while Rooney grabbed five boards.
The two teams traded buckets over the opening minutes of the second half and Fordham held a 39-23 lead with 14:05 to go. Then, Charlotte Stoddart had a huge series for the Rams. The senior made an impressive stop, grabbed the defensive board and drained a three on the ensuing possession to put Fordham up 19.
Saint Louis chipped the lead down to 14, 44-30, with just over 11 minutes to go. From there, however, the Rams offense reignited. Fordham outscored the Billikens 19-6 over the next five minutes, as Clark and Abigail Corning each scored six points to lead the run and give the Rams a 63-36 lead with a shade under six minutes left on the clock.
The Billikens worked the lead down over the final minutes, but the Rams left Hagan Arena with a 65-48 win.
The victory moved Coach Stephanie Gaitley within one win of 500 for her career.
Sunday’s semifinal will be televised nationally on CBS Sports Network, or you can listen live on wfuvsports.org.