Sports Information Director
JOLIET, Ill. -- After a rough start to the month of December, the Holy Cross women's basketball team got an early Christmas present on Thursday night as they picked up their first win in Chicagoland Collegiate Athletic Conference (CCAC) play on the road against the University of St. Francis (Ill.). Kari Barnes (Fort Wayne, Ind.) scored a team-high 16 points to lead four Saints players who reached double figures. Mary Fitzgerald (Livonia, Mich.) came one assist shy of a triple-double as the Saints overcame a five-point halftime deficit to knock off the Fighting Saints 81-78. With the win the Saints snap a six-game losing skid and improve to 3-10 overall and 1-3 in CCAC play.
The Saints found themselves in trouble in the early stages of Thursday night's CCAC contest as the Fighting Saints opened up the game scoring the first eight points. Holy Cross responded with a 5-0 run of their own but St. Francis was quick to answer, extending their lead to 10 points with 11:39 remaining in the half.
St. Francis held control for the majority of the first half before two free-throws from Mary Fitzgerald capped off an 11-3 run to give the Saints their first lead of the half at 32-31 with 2:20 remaining in the half. An 8-2 run by St. Francis gave the Fighting Saints momentum into the break as the Saints were down five points. The Fighting Saints scored 15 points off 10 Holy Cross turnovers and had a 9-4 advantage in second-chance points.
The Saints got off to a better start in the second half, cutting the St. Francis lead to one-point just over two minutes into the half. St. Francis was quick to extend their lead to as many as five points before the Saints began chipping away. Junior Maggie Gondeck (Michigan City, Ind.) capped off an 8-2 run by the Saints as they took their first lead of the second half at 48-47.
As the second half progressed, both teams continued to exchange leads. There were 11 lead changes in the second half alone with the most important one coming with 3:31 remaining in the game. Senior point guard Jillian DeLucia (Fishers, Ind.) knocked down one of her two free-throw attempts to give the Saints a 71-70 lead. Shortly after putting the Saints in front, DeLucia came up big on the defensive end with a steal and layup to extend the Saints lead to three points. Mary Rouse brought the Fighting Saints within one point before an 8-1 run by Holy Cross had the Saints up 81-73 with just 19 seconds remaining in the game. St. Francis would find themselves within three after a missed free-throw by Holy Cross down the stretch, but a block from senior Megan Eve (Scottsburg, Ind.) at the buzzer sealed the deal as the Saints picked up their first CCAC win of the year, ending their previous six-game losing streak.
Kari Barnes scored 11 of her team-high 16 points in the second half as Holy Cross outscored the Fighting Saints 47-39 while shooting 48.6% from the floor.
After turning the ball over 10 times in the first half, the Saints were much more careful in the second half where they had just six turnovers. The defense also stepped up in the final 20 minutes as Holy Cross turned nine St. Francis turnovers into 16 points. The Saints held a 26-21 advantage for the game in points off turnovers.
Mary Fitzgerald had her most productive game of the season finishing with a season-high 13 points while also setting career-highs in rebounds (10) and assists (9). Fitzgerald recorded her first career double-double and was just one assist shy of a triple-double.
Holy Cross (3-10, 1-3 CCAC) will close out 2013 as participants in the Davenport Holiday Tournament beginning on Friday, December 27 as they play the No. 4 ranked Davenport University Panthers.