Despite three double-digit scorers, including a career-high 15 points from junior Ashley Yencho, the American University women's basketball team fell 60-57 to St. Francis (Pa.) on Tuesday afternoon in the championship game of the Hatter Classic in DeLand, Fla.
St. Francis (4-6) jumped quickly out of the gates, taking a 7-1 lead over American (6-6) in the first few minutes. Yencho single-handily responded for the Eagles, scoring eight points in the opening four-plus minutes, including two three-pointers, to keep AU within reach. American took its first lead of the game at the 10:53 mark, 14-11, on a Michelle Kirk trifecta off a Yencho feed. The Red Flash, however, evened the score at 16, and led the remainder of the first half. Yencho kept the Eagles within striking distance with 13 points on five-of-seven shooting, including three three-point field goals. A bucket at the buzzer gave St. Francis a 33-28 lead at intermission.
After a relatively back-and-forth first half, the second 20 minutes turned into a game of runs. Facing an early seven-point deficit, the Eagles scored nine unanswered points to take a 37-35 lead with 16:40 to play. Liz Leer began the run with a layup, followed by a Kirk three-pointer, a Yencho transition layup and an Ohemaa Nyanin rebound-putback. St. Francis, however, quickly responded with a 12-0 spurt and opened up a 10-point lead, 47-37, with 11:05 remaining.
Six straight Kirk points trimmed the Red Flash advantage to four, 47-43, at the 7:26 mark. After the teams traded buckets, a pair of made free throws by Stephanie Anya and Kirk, sandwiched around a rebound and putback layup by Janelle McDonald, sparked a 6-0 AU run and tied the game at 52 with 2:48 remaining.
St. Francis' Quinessa Johnson scored the go-ahead basket with 2:00 left to give the Red Flash a 54-52 advantage, a lead the Red Flash would not relinquish down the stretch. AU had one final push with an Ebony Edwards three-pointer, which cut the margin to one, 58-57, with 1.9 second remaining. But St. Francis was able to successfully inbounds the ball and knocked down a pair of free throws in the last second to set the final margin at 60-57.
For the 11th time in 12 games this season, Kirk led the Eagles in scoring with 16 points, and also grabbed six rebounds. Yencho scored a career-best 15 points for AU on six-of-nine shooting from the floor in 40 minutes of action. She recorded a new career-high with five assists.
Edwards was also in double figures for AU with a career-best 11 points, including three-of-four from the three-point range, and a career-high-matching six rebounds. Additionally, Anya led the Eagles on the boards with a team-high seven rebounds, which tied a career-best for the freshman.
St. Francis was paced by Britney Hodges, who scored 15 points and was named tournament most valuable player. AU's Kirk was recognized to the all-tournament team for averaging 17 points per game in the two Hatter Classic contests. The junior currently leads the Patriot League at 19.6 ppg.
The Eagles will be back in action on Saturday, January 2 at Columbia. Tip time from New York City is scheduled for 1 p.m.