UD women earn share of A-10 title, top seed in tourney

It seemed only fitting on Senior Night at UD Arena that the Flyers played an encore.

The Flyers earned a share of the regular-season Atlantic 10 championship — and top seed in the conference tournament — with a 68-62 overtime win Wednesday over Saint Louis.

It was a heavyweight battle between two of the three teams tied for the A-10 lead entering the final night of the regular season.

“We wanted to give the fans a good treat,” Flyers coach Shauna Green said with a laugh after her squad improved to 13-3 in the A-10 and 19-9 overall. “That was just a great game for women’s basketball and a great game for our conference.”

PHOTOS: Twenty five shots from Dayton vs. SLU

UD shares the regular-season title with George Washington but captures the No. 1 seed for the tournament because the Flyers beat Saint Louis twice and GW lost to Saint Louis, the highest common opponent. GW (13-3 A-10) will be the No. 2 seed while Saint Louis finishes 22-7, 12-4.

Wednesday’s was a game that featured many peaks and valleys for the 2,905 in attendance.

The Flyers took a 56-51 lead with 4:14 remaining in regulation on a pair of free throws by freshman Jordan Wilmoth, but they would be the last in regulation for the hosts.

Saint Louis forced overtime when Sadie Stepanovich banked in a 3-pointer with 13 ticks remaining.

Overtime, however, belonged to the Flyer seniors.

Saicha Grant-Allen gave UD the lead for good, 58-56, less than a minute into the extra frame with a short jumper. Kelley Austria pushed the lead to 61-56 less than a minute later and Christy Macioce sealed the deal with a blocked shot as time expired.

“We had a few overtime games here last year and there are not good memories from them,” Grant-Allen said after finishing with 12 points and 17 rebounds. “But this was my last game here and that was not going to happen.”

Macioce got the blocked shot in her lone minute of action.

“You can’t write a script any better for the seniors,” Green said. “I am just so happy for them.”

The fact that the Flyers, after a 3-6 start, were cutting down nets was something that crept into Grant-Allen’s head as she climbed the ladder.

“To think we had a chance to play at home for the A-10 title is ridiculous,” Grant-Allen said. “It was always in the back of my head, but the start was not as promising. I’ve been waiting for a long time to do this.”

So long that the Flyers came out of the gate too strong against St. Louis.

Dayton turned the ball over on its first three possessions as the Billikens scored first.

Lauren Cannatelli (12 points) put the Flyers ahead 3-2 in an opening half that saw the lead change 15 times before the Flyers grabbed a 34-32 lead at halftime.

“I thought we were excited and anxious to start the game,” Austria said. “We just needed to settle down and get in the flow of the game.”

Dayton led 47-37 on a reverse lay-in by JaVonna Layfield with 5:25 remaining in the third, but the Flyers went 4-for-25 from the floor in the second half, including 0-for-11 in the fourth quarter.

“We just kept attacking,” Green said. “I think the 3 from Kelley in overtime opened things back up for us a little bit.”

The Flyers will open their bid to claim the tournament title in the A-10 quarterfinals March 3.

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