By Jon Gerardi
The Daily Item
WILLIAMSPORT -- As soon as Susquehanna coach Jim Reed saw Eleni Dimou's free throw go in, he let out a little sigh of relief.
The good shot from the line put the Crusaders up by four points with roughly 17 seconds remaining and most likely, all the Susquehanna players felt a little more relaxed out on the court too.
Eastern wasted too much time in those final few seconds and put up a three at the buzzer, only to see it come up short as Susquehanna staged a nice comeback inside Lamade Gynmasium at Lycoming College for a 53-49 victory in the Warrior's Hoops for Hounds Basketball Tournament.
Susquehanna plays MCLA this afternoon in the tournament championship.
"At that point in time (with 17 seconds left), there was only going to be one possession left for them and when we got up four, then all we just needed to do, even if they score, just get the ball inbounds and that's what happened," Reed said.
Susquehanna (4-6) rallied from a 12-point deficit late in the first half against Eastern (4-7). It was roughly halfway through the second half where the Crusaders' defense started making stops.
After holding an 8-point lead with 13:40 to go, the Eagles went eight consecutive possessions without scoring. During that span, it was Susquehanna's offense that was putting up points, going on a 9-0 run to take the first lead, 44-43, since the Crusaders led 13-12 with 13:43 left in the first half.
Susquehanna went nearly six minutes in the first half before scoring between baskets.
"When we scouted them, we saw that they were really good (on) rebounds, so we had to get the boards," Susquehanna's Mariah Monahan said. "We knew that they were 3-point shooters too, so as long as we were contesting shots, we knew that they probably wouldn't drive because they're more of a shooting team."
Monahan was a big help under the basket pulling down rebounds for the Crusaders. The junior guard grabbed a team-high 10 boards, nine of which were defensive, and ended the night with a double-double thanks to a 17-point performance. She added 11 points in the second half alone.
While Monahan had a boost in the second half, Loyalsock grad Jonaida Williams led the game with 18 points while Gina Palazzi added 10.
"Jonaida's been consistent for us all year. She shot an extremely high percentage from the floor. She's our all-around player," Reed said. "Jonaida defends, Jonaida gets rebounds, Jonaida makes perimeter shots, Jonaida scores the ball driving to the basket.
"She is the complete all-around player for our team, and she does that every game and I'm not surprised by her performance."
Williams added seven rebounds, six assists and five steals in the win.
With just inside of four minutes to play, Eastern's Kaitlyn Dougherty sank two free throws to tie the game for the fourth time, 49-all.
Less than a minute later, Palazzi grabbed a defensive rebound and fed it to Monahan, who ended up sinking a huge 3-pointer to give Susquehanna a 3-point lead.
Susquehanna's defense forced 22 turnovers, scoring as many points off them.
"I thought we did a really good job taking advantage and getting a couple of baskets in transition, but at the same time, when we didn't have anything, getting ourselves under control and then executing on offense," Reed said. "By far, the best we've done with that so far this year."
The largest lead Susquehanna held was just four points. In the first 10 minutes of the opening half, the two teams exchanged leads a handful of times and Susquehanna tied it up at 19-all. Eastern then started to build up its giant lead, however Susquehanna never hung its head.
"The coaches are trying to teach me to be the leader on the floor and I'm trying to get it, but I just have to encourage my team to stay up because a lot of them get down on themselves," Monahan said. "So I've just got to keep everyone together and on the same page at all times."
The host Lycoming Warriors (2-7), which have talented Shikellamy grad guard Rachael Scheller in its starting five, play Eastern in the consolation game today at 1 p.m.