STARTING LINEUP: NEC-TV ALL-ACCESS
On Monday, February 18th, ESPN3 and NEC Front Row aired the Robert Morris Colonials and Saint Francis Red Flash women’s basketball game live from DeGol Arena in Loretto. The matchup, a rematch of the previous season’s championship game, was one of the most eagerly anticipated contests in the league’s 2019 women’s basketball broadcast package. As fans tuned in to see the Colonials come away with a 66-60 victory over their Keystone State rivals, not many know the process for how a NEC basketball broadcast comes together and gets on the air. So this week in the NEC Overtime! Blog we wanted to do something a little different. Let’s pull back the curtain and let you, the audience, in on the preparation involved leading up to the game, the gameday production, the crew that helps make the broadcast possible, and reveal some of the production decisions along the way that helped shape what you saw on the screen. The following is an exclusive behind the scenes account of February 18th’s Colonials/Red Flash ESPN3 broadcast…this is NEC-TV All-Access!
Sunday, February 10th
From a play-by-play announcer’s perspective, preparing for a game is just like preparing for an exam in school. If you don’t open up a textbook until the night before to start studying, you probably aren’t going to fare that well on the test. So on this day, eight full days before gameday, I would get started on my preparation, spending time updating my SFU and RMU charts. All broadcasters have some sort of chart in front of them when they call games. These charts come in all different variations: hand-written or typed, simple or fancy, black and white or color coded, etc. Whatever is easiest for the announcer to follow. These charts will usually include basic information such as player names, numbers, stats, and notes. For me, I create my charts through Microsoft Word, so this way I don’t have to re-write every single note by hand every single time I see a team, I can just copy and paste or cut out and add.
For example, the last time I saw Robert Morris and Saint Francis was last year’s championship game, so my RMU and SFU charts were still set up from last March. So I had to sadly take out players from last year such as Ace Harrison and Megan Smith, and update the charts with the current rosters and 2019 information.
My broadcast partner Pam Roecker hand writes her notes about each player. As the analyst, her notes include more scouting report type information and notes from her conversations with the coaches, while my notes are more fun facts, stories, and statistics.
Monday, February 11th
One week before gameday, Bryant plays at Saint Francis and Robert Morris hosts Central Connecticut State on NEC Front Row. I have my updated roster charts out so now I can practice identifying players as I watch the games. In Loretto, the Red Flash won their fifth in a row 78-66, while the Colonials improved to 11-0 with a 60-40 win in Moon. From these games, I also start to take note of any storylines that might be prevalent for next week’s broadcast, for example: Robert Morris chasing 2013 Quinnipiac as the last team to have an undefeated NEC season, Courtney Zezza approaching the school’s career blocks record, Robert Morris’ post-players (34 points in the paint vs. CCSU) vs. SFU’s new zone defense, and Jess Kovatch on fire, averaging 28.8 points per game over the previous three weeks.
Tuesday, February 12th – Friday, February 15th
Tuesday was a snow day in New Jersey, so I got a chance to complete a lot of work in my game prep. I went back into my charts, updated the stats to include the numbers from Monday night’s games, and completed adding extra notes on each player in the notes boxes. Among the notes added to my charts include Isabella Posset not only being RMU’s first local product since 2013-14, but also wearing #4. The last two scholarship players to wear #4 – Anna Niki Stamolamprou and Angela Pace – won Player of the Year honors. Also, I found stories on Karson Swogger’s late grandfather being a former Hall of Fame coach at Altoona High School and teaching her the floater, Haley Thomas coming back from a foot injury last year to be in running for Most Improved Player this year, and finally a story on Swogger and Thomas being former high school opponents and playing a playoff game against each other at DeGol Arena. While there’s no guarantee how many of these stories, if any at all, make it into the actual broadcast, I like to research and have as many as I can, just in case.
I went back to NEC Front Row and watched last year’s Robert Morris/Saint Francis game. I tried to pay close attention to how Robert Morris defended Jess Kovatch. I noticed they used multiple players starting with Jocelyn Jones and then Nina Augustin for a good majority of the game. It didn’t help, as Kovatch lit up the Colonials with six threes in the third quarter. Watching back last year’s game also sparked the idea to research Kovatch’s career numbers against Robert Morris (25.4ppg on 42.3% shooting in seven games) and career numbers on ESPN3 NEC games (28.1ppg on 44.7% shooting in ten games).
During the remainder of the week, my broadcast partner Pam Roecker and I will be in touch either through e-mail or over the phone (for this particular week it would be via e-mail), and we exchange ideas for storylines or important things we would like to bring up on the broadcast. Storylines Pam suggested for this week include: Kovatch as the all-time leading scorer and all of the post-season honor watch-lists she is on, Susan Robinson-Fruchtl serving as interim head coach while also the Athletic Director, and how Robert Morris would respond back in the building where they lost the championship game a year ago.
Saturday, February 16th
I head up to Hackensack to see Saint Francis play against Fairleigh Dickinson. It’s my first time seeing the Red Flash in person since the last time they came to New Jersey, in their season opener against Rutgers. Before the game, I get to chat for about 10 minutes with interim head coach Susan Robinson Fruchtl.
Our conversation provides valuable insight for Monday’s broadcast on things about the team that don’t show up in box scores, game notes, or articles, such as Coach Robinson Fruchtl describing the keys to her team’s success over the last three weeks, “We’ve taken care of the ball better over the last five to six games. We’ve gotten hotter shooting, we’re a little more detailed about things like setting good screens and reading screens defensively, we’ve worked on that zone defense and their understanding, and we’ve seen some kids develop: Leah Morrow, Caitlin Carroll, Phee Allen, and AJ Timbers have played a little more. Kids have gotten opportunity and they’ve stepped up.” Coach also provided her insight on keys to the Robert Morris matchup, “They are the best half court defensive team in the league. That’s why they are winning. To me they are physical. That will be interesting to see, can we match their physicality? To me, we’re a better shooting team and have more weapons from the perimeter. We’re going to have to hit some shots.”
Despite trailing entering the fourth quarter, the Red Flash would fight back with a 15-0 run, to win the game 77-65, their sixth straight win. Simultaneously, in Emmitsburg, MD, the Robert Morris Colonials were handed their first NEC defeat by the Mount St. Mary’s Mountaineers 61-55. This outcome completely changes one of our featured storylines going into Monday night. Now instead of focusing on Robert Morris and their push towards an undefeated conference regular season and making comparisons to the 2013 Quinnipiac Bobcats, now the story shifts to ‘How is Robert Morris going to rebound and respond after their first NEC loss?’
Sunday, February 17th
On Sunday, Pam and I hear from our production director Brad Kasnet from Pack Network for a ‘production meeting’ of sorts. Pam and I submit our players who we would like to feature during the opening of the broadcast (Nneka Ezeigbo for RMU and Jess Kovatch for SFU). We also suggest to Brad opening the broadcast with a graphic of the NEC standings and having a camera gather footage from the pre-game ‘Courtney Zezza Block Party’ in front of DeGol Arena to use either in the open or at some point during the broadcast. We go over some stats that could be made into graphics, such as the numbers I found earlier in the week on Kovatch against Robert Morris and Kovatch in NEC ESPN3 games.
Brad then sends us a copy of the rundown, which lists the sequence for the game open and all of the commercial breaks during the game, with the promos that I have to read at each break.
Later that evening, Pam and I both have a chance to speak with Robert Morris head coach Charlie Buscaglia over the phone as the Colonials travel on their bus to Loretto. Coach B addressed one of our big questions going into the game, how the Colonials were prepared to defend Kovatch, “She makes tough shots. She works on it and has a lot of passion for that part of the game. You just do the best you can. It’s not just one person, it’s going to have to be a team effort.”
Monday, February 18th – GAMEDAY!
After over a week of studying and preparation, gameday is finally here!
10:30am: The Pack Network crew, composed of production director Brad Kasnet and production assistant/camera operator James Kent, arrive at DeGol Arena. Once the game actually starts, they will be joined by three other camera operators, a graphics operator, and a TV timeout coordinator who is on the phone with ESPN counting down to and counting back from commercial breaks.
Brad and James will spend much of the morning and afternoon setting up their equipment, a process that takes at least four hours. They run cables, setting up the cameras, microphones, and monitors, connecting everything to the main computer console. Brad will use this console to direct the game (play the commercials, cut to the various camera shots, show replays, and post graphics). They establish feeds to the monitors at the broadcast position and the video board in the gym, and make sure the feed is properly transmitting to NEC Front Row and ESPN. Brad will then spend much of the afternoon creating all of the graphics that you see on the screen during the game.
5:00pm: About two hours before the start of the game, Pam and I arrive at DeGol Arena. We meet with Brad and go over the graphics and the rundown. One adjustment that needed to be made is changing the NEC standings graphic to include the three games that went final earlier in the afternoon. St. Francis Brooklyn winning and clinching a playoff spot and Sacred Heart’s loss to LIU Brooklyn both had a direct impact on our game, considering now SFU would have a chance to go one full game up on the Pioneers and Terriers, so that definitely needed to be reflected in the standings graphic.
5:30pm: Red Flash head coach Susan Robinson Fruchtl came over to say hello to Pam and I at the broadcast table. Part of our informal conversation involved Coach Robinson Fruchtl telling us that at halftime the SFU bowling team would be receiving their championship rings after winning the 2018 NEC Championship. With a feature on NEC Hall of Fame bowler Danielle McEwan already scheduled for our halftime show, the decision was made to show part of the ceremony coming out of the feature piece and before going to commercial break.
6:00pm: Robert Morris SID Ethan Woy comes over to talk to us briefly about the Colonials, going over who is available and who isn’t and discuss some name pronunciations. Anyone who has followed any of my broadcasts, or regularly reads this column, knows that I like weird and quirky stats. We find out that Robert Morris is wearing their pink jerseys for this game after originally being listed to wear their road navy blues. RMU is 22-1 all time when wearing the pink jerseys, information that wasn’t originally planned to get on the broadcast, but now definitely will.
James from Pack Network goes outside with a camera to film the opening shot of DeGol Arena and record footage of students flipping burgers and hot dogs on the grill as part of the ‘Block Party’ while light snow flurries start to come down. James then returns inside and uploads that footage from the camera into Brad’s main computer to use during the broadcast. After looking through the rundown, Brad and I see that there is time coming back from commercial at the second quarter media timeout, after we read the ‘NCAA Respect’ promo, to show the ‘Block Party’ footage.
6:30pm: About a half-hour before going on the air, Pam and I rehearse the opening to the broadcast. We run through everything that you will see on TV. The opening starts with the shot recorded from outside DeGol Arena, then cuts to a wide shot of inside the gym while a graphic comes up with the team’s logos and records. Then comes the NEC standings graphic we decided to add to the open earlier in the week, before finally the camera cuts to Pam and I courtside. I set up Pam to talk about the rivalry and these two teams meeting for the first time since last year’s championship, before setting up the starting lineups and our feature players, Ezeigbo and Kovatch. Everything to that point goes according to the script and we are all ready to roll!
In the arena, the national anthem and the starting lineups take place before we go on the air at 7:00pm. This is because it would be awkward for TV to come on the air in the middle of honoring our country or with the lights in the building out, like a lot of gyms do now with their intros. During the anthem I have a routine of closing my eyes and talking to myself, reminding myself to have a blast, how lucky I am that I get to be here, and letting the broadcast flow like running water (basically telling myself to be loose). After the anthem I always give a few claps and say out loud to Pam and the crew, ‘Let’s have some fun!’ Then we sit back down, settle in, and get counted down in our headsets, “5…4…3…2…1…and we’re live…”
FIRST QUARTER: We go live on the air and run through the opening just as we rehearsed. For ESPN3 games, the official game start time is 7:03 or 7:04pm. It can be an awkward situation for the players and the fans in the building as they already ran through the anthem and lineups before ESPN3 goes on the air at 7:00, but the game doesn’t actually start until a few minutes after the hour so we can set the scene with our opening and run through the starting lineups on the broadcast. So everyone on the court and in the stands is all pumped up and excited to get going, only to have to stand around and wait for several minutes so us TV people can finish up our stuff.
Here is an example of how the pre-game prep pays off during a broadcast: at the 6:26 mark of the first quarter Karson Swogger is fouled trying to put up a floater in the lane. While she is taking her free throws, it’s a perfect time to draw back to the story I researched on Tuesday on Swogger’s grandfather teaching her the floater. Pam then would transition from that to bringing in notes from her conversation with Coach Robinson Fruchtl earlier in the week about Swogger transitioning to a point guard role this year.
SECOND QUARTER: Sometimes things fall into place with the perfect timing, as was the case with the second quarter media timeout. We had pre-determined before the game that we would be coming out of this break with the footage from the ‘Block Party,’ and sure enough, Zezza recorded four blocks in the first five minutes of the second quarter to bring her total up to five for the game. So coming out of the commercial, viewers saw the shot of the burgers and hot dogs on the grill while I read the NCAA Respect promo, and then Pam and I were able to discuss Zezza’s shot blocking skills.
After 5 blocks in the first half we got to talk a bunch about Courtney Zezza (and her block party) during last night’s ESPN3 broadcast. Here are some highlights! #NECWBB @RedFlashWBB pic.twitter.com/dTPXKfRRJZ— Craig D’Amico (@CraigCD13) February 19, 2019
HALFTIME: As planned, we go from the Hall of Fame video package of Danielle McEwen right into a live shot of the Saint Francis bowling team getting honored. With Kovatch held to just three points, Pam checks in with SFU SID David Halstead to see if the three points were Kovatch’s lowest in a half this season (they were) and to check what her season low point total is.
At his computer, while the halftime features and commercials play, production director Brad is searching through replays saved onto his computer of the top plays from the first half to put together for a ‘first half highlights’ segment, all while updating the ‘halftime stats’ graphic.
THIRD QUARTER: In the third quarter, the broadcast conversation started to shift into focusing on the RMU defense. With 5:02 to go, following Pam’s analysis on how Augustin used an angle to force Kovatch out of the paint while she was in transition, I brought out a quirky statistic from the RMU game notes about how the Colonials had held five straight opponent’s leading scorers to single digit scoring.
FOURTH QUARTER: During the commercial break, I researched the season high in three point attempts for Robert Morris. They had 28 three point attempts at the end of the third quarter, only the fifth time they had as many as 28 or more during a game this year, a note we got across in the opening 30 seconds of the fourth quarter.
With 7:43 remaining, Kovatch and Nia Adams get tangled up and both fell to the ground while going after a rebound. In a perfect example of the behind-the-scenes communication between the director and the on-air talent during a broadcast, the initial live shot saw Kovatch and Adams get tangled up, the whistle blow, and then a cut to the baseline camera view where you saw Kovatch get helped up by her teammates, before finally going back to the wide camera to see that Kovatch had a ‘flat tire’ situation with her sneaker where her shoe partially came off. While all this sequence was going on, production director Brad was talking to me in my headset, telling me that they had a replay of her from the baseline camera pointing and showing her ‘heel situation.’ So Brad cut right to that replay and Pam and I were able to react and comment.
Kovatch with a ‘flat tire’ heel situation. A great example of in-broadcast communication between the director and the talent to get to the baseline camera replay angle pic.twitter.com/C5cb09nRmg— Craig D’Amico (@CraigCD13) February 26, 2019
With under 4:00 minutes to go, and the game in a timeout, Pam and I start discussing the jersey ceremony from the week before of NEC Hall of Famer Jess Zinobile. Brad communicates to the baseline cameraman to turn around and secure a shot of Zinobile’s jersey just to the right of the scoreboard, allowing Brad to cut to a shot of the jersey as Pam and I were in the middle of our Zinobile conversation.
Coach B had told Pam on Sunday night that one area the Colonials needed to improve on, going back to several instances in non-conference, but especially after Mount two days earlier, was closing out games. With RMU protecting a three point lead in the final minute, suddenly that piece of information became front and center.
POSTGAME: After the Colonials secured the 66-60 victory, the last order of business on the broadcast was Pam interviewing the winning coach and the player of the game. As Pam made her way from the broadcast table over to the sideline camera for the interview, she meets up with RMU SID Ethan Woy to discuss which player she would be interviewing. It came down to either Augustin (18 points on 6-12 3pt shooting) or Ezeigbo (16 points and 9 rebounds), and the decision was made to go with Augustin. Following the interview, I got the ‘wrap-it-up’ signal from Brad through my headset, and we went through the game ending narration while Brad rolled back highlights from earlier in the game, as we said ‘goodnight’ and signed off the air.
Be sure to join us for the next NEC Women’s Basketball broadcasts on ESPN3 coming up this post-season. ESPN3 will air both 2019 NEC Women’s Basketball Tournament semi-final matchups on Thursday, March 14th at 7pm.
#NECWBB NEWS AND NOTES
*WHERE THEY STAND: Three more teams entered the 2019 NEC Women’s Basketball Tournament field this weekend as the Wagner Seahawks clinched their first playoff berth since 2014 with a 60-44 win over Fairleigh Dickinson on Saturday afternoon, while Mount St. Mary’s and Bryant punched their tickets with wins on Monday night coupled with losses by CCSU, Fairleigh Dickinson, and LIU Brooklyn.
The Robert Morris Colonials maintained their lead in the top spot in the NEC standings by sweeping the NEC’s Brooklyn institutions, winning on Saturday over St. Francis Brooklyn 74-57, and again on Monday night over LIU Brooklyn 71-54. Sporting a three game lead with three games left to go, the Colonials have clinched at least a share of the NEC’s regular season championship for a third straight year and for the seventh time overall. RMU can clinch the title outright, and the tournament’s #1 seed for a fourth time in program history, with one more win or one more Sacred Heart loss over the final three games of the regular season.
Sacred Heart was shorthanded for most of the weekend, but picked up two of their biggest wins of the year on the road, a 27 point win on Saturday at Central, and a 19 point win on Monday night at FDU. With the win on Monday against the Knights, combined with Wagner’s loss to Bryant, the Pioneers have clinched a top four seed and a first round playoff home game at the Pitt Center. The Pioneers trail RMU for the #1 spot by three games with three to go. They would need to win out, including a win next Monday head-to-head against RMU, and hope the Colonials drop their two other games as well, just to force a first place tie and leave it up to the tiebreakers to decide the #1 seed. Maintaining the #2 spot will be just as important, as finishing in second would ensure that any playoff games played in the first two rounds would be at home. Sacred Heart holds a one game lead over Saint Francis U for second, with the Red Flash set to come to town for a Saturday afternoon showdown this weekend. A Sacred Heart win would reduce the magic number to one to clinch a top two seed, while a Red Flash win would force a tie for second place, with SFU winning the season series to control the tiebreaker.
Monday night also saw a tie for third place broken as the Saint Francis Red Flash defeated the St. Francis Brooklyn Terriers 86-84 in Loretto. Both teams entered the night tied for third at 9-5 in NEC play, but SFU’s win now gives them a one game edge. SFU’s win was crucial because it forces a split in the season series, which would be important for tiebreakers should these teams finish the year even. As mentioned, the Red Flash can force themselves into a tie for second, with the tiebreaker advantage, if they can win on the road in Fairfield on Saturday. Saint Francis can also clinch a first round playoff home game with another win and another Wagner loss.
For the Terriers, after dropping both games of the Pennsylvania road trip, they fall to fourth place with a 9-6 record in NEC play, one game behind third place and only one game ahead of fifth. St. Francis Brooklyn, looking to host their first playoff game in school history, will need to maintain their slim margin over Wagner. The Seahawks and Terriers split their season series this year, so any tiebreaker would come down to records against the NEC’s top teams in the standings. The Terriers own an overtime victory over the current second place Pioneers, but the Seahawks will have an opportunity when they host Robert Morris and Saint Francis this weekend. The Seahawks clinched only their program’s fourth playoff appearance in the last 15 years on Saturday. They are looking to host a playoff game at the Spiro Center for the first time since 2004.
Mount St. Mary’s and Bryant both locked up playoff spots this weekend. Mount St. Mary’s returns to the playoffs in 2019 after missing out last year in Coach Marchesano’s first season. Bryant has been to the postseason every year since first being eligible in 2013. The Bulldogs hold the head-to-head tiebreaker advantage over Mount due to a sweep in the regular season series.
Finally, three teams are in the running for just one final playoff spot, as Central Connecticut, Fairleigh Dickinson, and LIU Brooklyn head into the final three games deadlocked in the standings. At the moment, FDU holds the advantage in a three way tiebreaker situation due to a 2-0 combined record against LIU and CCSU so far this season. While the Blackbirds are in a bit of a hole with an 0-2 combined record against the other two teams, they have thrust themselves back into the race with recent wins over two of the league’s top three teams, Sacred Heart and Saint Francis U, wins that could be a huge advantage if all three teams end up tied in their head to head records against each other. What will make this a fascinating race to the finish line, is that all three of these teams face each other over the final week, starting with CCSU at LIU Brooklyn on Saturday, Fairleigh Dickinson at CCSU on Monday, and then LIU Brooklyn at Fairleigh Dickinson in the regular season finale on Thursday, March 7th.
If the playoffs started today (which they don’t)…
#8 Fairleigh Dickinson at #1 Robert Morris
#7 Mount St. Mary’s at #2 Sacred Heart
#6 Bryant at #3 Saint Francis U
#5 Wagner at #4 St. Francis Brooklyn
*SHU SHOOTING DISPLAY ON ESPN+: The Sacred Heart Pioneers put on quite the shooting display in front of an ESPN+ audience on Monday night in Hackensack, NJ. The Pioneers shot a single game, team Division 1 record 28-46 from the floor (60.9%), and shot 14-25 from behind the arc, leading SHU to an 82-63 victory over the Fairleigh Dickinson Knights. The 82 points and the 14 threes marked season highs for Sacred Heart.
Four Pioneer players were in double-figure scoring, led by Kat Haines with 22, Erin Storck with 16, Candice Leatherwood with 12, and Jayla Davis with a career high 19. Playing without two regular starters, Davis began the night in the starting lineup for the first time this year, while grad student Kiana Ye saw extended minutes in just her second game of the season. Ye, who returned to action for the first time since last year’s postseason on Saturday against Central Connecticut State, played 19 minutes and connected on three triples, leading to a career high nine points.
The game broke open with a 32 point third quarter for Sacred Heart, where they shot 10-13 overall and 6-7 from behind the arc. The 32 point quarter was the highest scoring quarter in program history.
🏀 RECAP | @SacredHeartWBB sets new season-high in pts (8⃣2⃣), field goal % (60.9), three-pointers (1⃣4⃣) as the Pioneers power past FDU 82-63 💪
Kiana Ye ⬇️⬇️⬇️ career-high 9⃣pts off the bench tonight
📝 RELEASE https://t.co/IEV3n6spgh #WeAreSHU | #NECWBB | #PlayoffPios pic.twitter.com/V9emrbD5td— SHU Pioneers (@SHUBigRed) February 26, 2019
A LOOK AHEAD
Saturday, March 2, 2019
Robert Morris at Wagner, 1pm
Bryant at St. Francis Brooklyn, 1pm
Saint Francis U at Sacred Heart, 1pm
Fairleigh Dickinson at Mount St. Mary’s, 1pm
Central Connecticut at LIU Brooklyn, 2pm
Monday, March 4, 2019
Robert Morris at Sacred Heart, 6pm
Mount St. Mary’s at St. Francis Brooklyn, 7pm
Saint Francis U at Wagner, 7pm
Fairleigh Dickinson at Central Connecticut, 7pm
Bryant at LIU Brooklyn, 7pm
*Sacred Heart hosting Robert Morris and Saint Francis U: In a pair of games that will likely shape the top three spots in the NEC Tournament, Sacred Heart will welcome RMU and SFU into the Pitt Center this weekend. The Pioneers, winners of 11 out of their last 12 NEC home games, return to the Pitt Center for the first time since February 11th, after going 3-1 on a season long four game road trip. Robert Morris needs only one more win or one more Sacred Heart loss to officially wrap up the number one seed, while Saint Francis and Sacred Heart battle for a possible top two seed. The Pioneers and Red Flash will meet one week shy of the fifth anniversary of their historic 132-124 double overtime playoff game from back in the 2014 season.
*The Race for Eighth: All three teams currently tied for the eighth and final playoff spot will play each other over these final three games, beginning this week with Central Connecticut State at LIU Brooklyn on Saturday and Fairleigh Dickinson at Central Connecticut State on Monday.
*For the games of February 23-25, 2019
HONORABLE MENTIONS: Naomi Ashley, BRY…Madelynn Comly…Jayla Davis, SHU…Khaleah Edwards, WC…Michaela Harrison, MSM…Sydney Holloway, BRY… Jess Kovatch, SFU…Juliette Lawless, MSM…Jade Johnson, SFBK…Jeydah Johnson, LIU…Amy O’Neill, SFBK…Taylah Simmons, WC…Brandy Thomas, LIU
THREE: Haley Thomas, SO (SFU): The Saint Francis sophomore had a career night in Monday’s victory over St. Francis Brooklyn. Thomas poured in a career high 27 points on 12 for 18 shooting. “They had no answer for Haley,” said interim head coach Susan Robinson Fruchtl in the post-game press conference. “They had no answer inside, outside…whoever they put on her was just a mismatch.” In Saturday’s loss to the Blackbirds, Thomas came off the bench due to SFU starting their seniors for Senior Day, and the Hooversville, PA native contributed 12 points, 6 rebounds, 4 assists, and 3 steals in 29 minutes before fouling out. On the weekend, Thomas was super-efficient, shooting 68% from the field over the two games.
TWO: Katherine Haines, GR (SHU): The Sacred Heart Pioneers have won five out of their last six games over the last three weeks, and during this stretch, graduate student Kat Haines has been what her head coach Jess Mannetti describes as ‘unstoppable.’ The numbers back that claim up, as Haines has averaged 19.8 points, 8.8 rebounds, and has shot 59.2% during the last six outings. This past week, Haines recorded her 11th double-double of the season on Saturday with 24 points and 12 rebounds against Central Connecticut, and then followed it up with 22 points, 5 rebounds, and a career high 5 assists against Fairleigh Dickinson.
ONE: Nneka Ezeigbo, JR (RMU): For the second straight week, Ezeigbo recorded a double-double and an ‘almost’ double-double, this time helping lead the Robert Morris Colonials to a sweep of the NEC’s Brooklyn schools and a share of the 2019 regular season championship. On Saturday against the Terriers, Ezeigbo powered her way to 16 points and 9 rebounds in 24 minutes of action. On Monday night, she was an unstoppable force against the Blackbirds, setting a new career high with 30 points on 13-20 shooting, with 11 rebounds. Ezeigbo recorded her sixth double-double of the year, on a night when she became the first Colonial to reach the 30 point mark since Anna Niki Stamolamprou tied the school record with a 39 point showing back in January of 2017. “She was very steady for us tonight, and that’s something we really need,” said head coach Charlie Buscaglia in his post-game interview on NEC Front Row. “She did a great job at playing with a great pace, but being aggressively wise and not forcing it. It was great to see her have a day like today because a lot of work and development went into this. It was great to see her go off today and have a nice game around the basket like that. I’m really proud of her.”
STAT OF THE WEEK
*Jade Johnson and Nneka Ezeigbo both hit the 30 point mark in the scoring column on Monday night. Their performances became the 14th and 15th individual 30 point games of the season in the Northeast Conference, making 2018-19 a season with the most individual 30 point games since 22 were recorded in 2015-16. St. Francis Brooklyn’s Jade Johnson has recorded the most individual 30 point games on the season with five (and three in her last five games), ahead of SFU’s Jess Kovatch who has three.
A look at the 15 individual 30 point games in 2018-19:
-Brandy Thomas (LIU), 36 vs. MSM – 2/11/19
-Jess Kovatch (SFU), 34 at MSM – 2/2/19
-Jade Johnson (SFBK), 33 at LIU – 1/21/19
-Candice Leatherwood (SHU), 31 at LEHIGH – 12/8/18
-Jade Johnson (SFBK), 31 vs. PRINCETON – 12/19/18
-Jess Kovatch (SFU), 31 vs. FDU – 1/5/19
-Lauren Francillon (FDU), 31 vs. CCSU – 1/12/19
-Michaela Harrison (MSM), 31 at LIU – 2/11/19
-Jade Johnson (SFBK), 31 vs. LIU – 2/16/19
-Jade Johnson (SFBK), 31 at SFU – 2/25/19
-Michaela Harrison (MSM), 30 vs. TOWSON – 11/24/18
-Jess Kovatch (SFU), 30 vs. WC – 1/28/19
-Taylah Simmons (WC), 30 vs. SFBK – 2/11/19
-Jade Johnson (SFBK), 30 at WC – 2/11/19
-Nneka Ezeigbo (RMU), 30 vs. LIU – 2/25/19
Be sure to join us back here at the NEC Overtime! Blog next Wednesday, March 6th for the regular season finale of the WBB Fast Break column. We’ll break down all of the tiebreaker scenarios going into the final games and look ahead to the 2019 NEC Tournament!