Fifth Ranked Xavier Defeats Fordham Women’s Hoopsters in Season Finale, but Rams Join A-10 Tourney

The Fordham Rams women’s basketball team (8-21. 2-12) ended the 2009-10 regular season with a loss to Xavier (24-3, 14-0), the nation’s fifth ranked team. The long season had its ups and downs for the Bronx squad. The players enjoyed a visit to Cancun, Mexico, hosted a holiday tournament on the Rose Hill campus in late December and continued its rebound from the winless 2007-8 season. The Rams completed the regular season with the same won/loss mark of its previous season.  The season began auspiciously for the Rams as the women won six of its first nine contests. Success on the court then became much more difficult to achieve as the Rams lost 18 of its final 20 games.

As the final position for the Atlantic-10 playoffs ended in a three-way tie between Fordham, LaSalle and Rhode Island, the tie-breaking procedures were needed. Rhode Island was eliminated as it was defeated by Fordham and LaSalle during the season. A coin toss decided that Fordham would be included. Fordham coach Cathy Andruzzi expressed her elation for Fordham’s inclusion,

“I’m so excited and happy for our players…I am very thankful for the opportunity to continue playing and I am so excited about being in the Atlantic-10 tournament.” This will be Andruzzi’s first A-10 tourney as Fordham’s head coach. Fordham is scheduled to meet St. Joseph’s on Friday, March 5 at 2:30 PM.” In the only meeting between the two teams this season, St. Joseph’s edged the Rams, 62-57.

Randall Hurst, the one senior on the squad, was honored prior to the contest. Hurst came to Rose Hill two years ago to play with the team and earn her degree in Visual Arts and Architecture. The Detroit, Michigan native was reared in West Bloomfield, Michigan, the same town as Fordham teammate Kristina Bell. Hurst was a star on her high school basketball team. She spent her collegiate freshman year at the University of Central Florida. She remained in Florida for her sophomore year at Daytona Beach Community College. During her two years at Fordham, Hurst led the Rams in scoring and rebounding. Her 13.2 points per game average is seventh in team history.

Hurst was escorted on court for the pre-game ceremony by her parents. The young woman gave credit for their support throughout her life, “My parents have been very supportive of me and love coming to watch me play. They have been watching me through high school and came to almost every AAU tournament I played in. I’m always excited for my parents to see me.”

Hurst is hopeful of continuing her basketball career after her graduation. She said, “I’d like to go overseas to play, preferably in Europe.” Several of Fordham’s most successful players such as Lisa Carrol and Mobolaje Akiodoi continued their playing careers overseas. Fordham’s greatest female basketball player, Anne Gregory, played professionally in France after graduating from Fordham. Hurst articulately expressed what it feels like to end one phase of life and to begin another, “It’s scary and exciting at the same time. You don’t know what to expect.”

Hurst’s time on court ended unexpectedly early as she injured her knee four minutes into the game and was not able to return. After the contest, she assured those concerned that she was fine. The visitors from Cincinnati took a 10-0 lead in the early minutes. Xavier’s highly respected front court  tandem, Amber Harris and Ta’Shia Phillips, scored all ten of those points. At that point, it appeared that Xavier was well on the way to an easy 15th consecutive victory.

The Rams fought back tenaciously and took the first and only lead of the game, 32-31, on a three by freshman Arielle Collins.  The Rams remained competitive until falling behind by double digits, 60-50, with 7:33 left in the game. Xavier scored the final six points to win by 15, 74-59. The victory was Xavier 15th straight. The Musketeers ended A-10 Conference play with a perfect 14-0 mark.

Xavier superior bigs, Harris (6-5) and Phillips (6-6), made the difference in the contest. The duo grabbed 23 of their teams 50 rebounds contrasted with 28 boards for the Rams, blocked five shots and scored 39 of Xavier’s 74 points. Harris achieved her 12th double-double of the season and Phillips her 17th.

Four players on Fordham scored in double figures. Several of the team stepped up after the elimination of Hurst, Fordham’s leading scorer early in the contest. Sophomore Becky Peters displayed her talent, energy and leadership during a team-high 37 minutes on court. She led Fordham in scoring with 17, but was no less effective on defense garnering a career high of five steals. When complimented upon her leadership skills, she responded, “I have five siblings.”

The players on both teams are now looking forward to the next phase of the 2009-10 season. Fordham could show the team’s continued improvement with a good showing in next week’s A-10 tournament and Xavier could demonstrate that its highest ever rating is well-deserved by an outstanding NCAA Tournament performance.

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