Jayla Scaife shoots Dayton into Atlantic 10 women’s tournament final

Saint Louis gave Dayton all it wanted Saturday in the Atlantic 10 women’s basketball tournament.

The fourth-seeded Billikens hung tough on the boards, were almost even in assists and turnovers and matched the No. 1-seeded Flyers in steals and blocks.

Dayton hit eight 3-pointers, but SLU hit seven.

The Billikens shot 32.8 percent from the floor while the Flyers scratched out only a 36.2 mark.

But at the end of the day, Dayton had Jayla Scaife and Saint Louis did not.

The senior scored a game-high 25 points in Dayton’s 58-50 win, outdueling fellow All-Atlantic 10 guard Ciaja Harbison and pushing the Flyers into the finale of the tournament scheduled for noon Sunday at UD Arena. The Flyers will face Fordham or VCU in the title game.

READ MORE: Dayton does enough to defeat Saint Louis

“She’s a pro,” Saint Louis coach Lisa Stone said of the 5-foot-10 Scaife, who scored 27 against the Billikens a week ago on the road. “She’s a great player. She can rise up, shoot an elevated jump shot, shoot an elevated 3-point shot.

“She’s a player that can score, she can block shots. She’s long. On most teams, she would be a (power forward), and for this team she’s a guard. She can play. She can flat out play. She’s one of the best in the league. She’s a pro. She’s going to get a chance to play more basketball.”

Scaife had 11 points in Dayton's 79-68 win over Richmond in the quarterfinals of the tournament Friday while Erin Whalen scored 21 and Kyla Whitehead had 18 against the Spiders.

The Billikens held Whalen and Whitehead to a combined 12, but they had no answer for Scaife, who made 8 of 19 shots, including 5 of 8 from 3-point range.

“I just keep praying that maybe one night everyone will be on,” Dayton coach Shauna Green said. “Like I keep saying it has to happen sometime, and it hasn’t, but imagine if Erin and Jayla are both going.”

Having a different standout on any given night has been a winning formula so far for the Flyers. They won the regular-season title with a 15-1 mark in conference play and is 24-8 heading into the conference final.

“This team is so special because I have three people on the bench that could be starting,” Green said. “I have Jayla, I could run a play for her literally every time. I could run a play to Erin every single time. I could run a play to (Shakeela Fowler) or (Araion Bradshaw) or inside.

“This is a really deep team, and they’ve just really bought into their roles, and they’ve made a lot of sacrifices for the betterment of the team so we can win games and that’s them. It’s just been such a fun group to coach because of that. They’ve just really bought into their roles, and it hasn’t been about coach, ‘Why am I not playing?’ No, it’s just this what we need to do to win. And that’s what makes them special.”

READ MORE: Flyers start hot, hold off Richmond

Scaife said there was no extra impetus to take over Saturday. She just did what the team needed.

“I never come in thinking I have to be the main scorer,” said Scaife, who entered averaging 12.9 points and 5.7 rebounds per game. “The ball just kind of finds whoever. We have so many scorers and so many threats on our team you just have to pick your poison as an opponent. SLU is a great team. We just were just on today.”

Harbison finished with a team-high 17 points while Rachel Kent had 10 for the Billikens (19-13).

“They did a really good job on Ciaja,” Stone said. “Ciaja was gonna leave it on the floor, and she did. Ciaja left it on the floor. She handled them pretty well.”

Not well enough to earn another game in the tournament, though.

That will go to the Flyers, who can lock up an NCAA Tournament bid if they win their third Atlantic 10 tournament championship.

Green’s team last made the Big Dance two years ago, but she insisted they were not going to look ahead.

They last made the A-10 final three years ago when they beat Duquesne. The school’s other tournament title came in 2012.

“We’ve had a lot of goals this past year — from last year and not making that final — and you know these guys made plays and it’s them, they just refuse to lose and they found a way,” Green said. “And that’s what we’ve been talking about: just going 1-0. Find a way to go 1-0. And that’s all we can control, and a ton of credit to St. Louis, but proud of our guys for making plays.”

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