Saint Joe's women edge Fordham 47-46 for A10 titleFordham's Samantha Clark (24) shoots the ball during the first half of their NCAA college basketball championship game against Saint Joseph's at the Atlantic 10 Conference tournament, Saturday, March 16, 2013, in New York. (AP Photo/John Minchillo)
NEW YORK (AP) -- Natasha Cloud scored 15 points to help Saint Joseph's rally to beat Fordham 47-46 and win the Atlantic 10 on Saturday night, earning the Hawks their first trip to the NCAA tournament since 2000.
Trailing 47-45 with 30 seconds left, Fordham's Erin Rooney hit the first of two free throws. Her second shot rolled off the rim, but Saint Joseph's couldn't corral the rebound giving the Rams one final chance. They couldn't get a shot off as Samantha Clark was called for an offensive foul with 6.7 seconds left.
Fordham fouled Chatilla van Grinsven a few seconds later. She missed both free throws, but Marah Strickland's heave from the opposite foul line was way short setting off a wild celebration.
Strickland scored 16 points to lead the Rams (24-8), who were trying for their first NCAA bid since 1994 when they won the Patriot League.
The fourth-seeded Hawks have an impressive NCAA resume with a victory over then-No. 5 Maryland in November and a win over No. 18 Dayton in the semifinals of the Atlantic 10 tournament.
The Rams scored the first 12 points of the game as Saint Joseph's got off to a terrible start missing its first 11 shots. Ashley Prim finally got the Hawks on the board with a layup 7 minutes in. They got within 16-12 before Arielle Collins' 3-pointer made it an eight-point game.
Fordham led 24-16 at the half.
Trailing 30-22 early in the second half, Cloud - who earned outstanding player of the tournament honors - got the Hawks going scoring five points during a 12-0 run. Van Grinsven's layup made it 31-30 and gave the Hawks their first lead of the game. Mireia Vila's 3-pointer capped the burst and made it a four-point game with 10:47 left.
Saint Joseph's (23-8) couldn't extend its lead and Strickland's 3-pointer with 3:58 left made it 40-39. Moments later Abigail Corning hit a 3 to give Fordham the lead with 3:12 left.
The two teams then traded big shots before van Grinsven hit two free throws with 1:47 left. Those would be the last points until Rooney's free throw with 30 seconds left as both teams missed the front end of 1-and-1's from the free throw line.
Saint Joseph's improved to 3-8 in A-10 finals with the last victory coming back in 1999. Fordham coach Stephanie Gaitley led the Hawks back then and also guided them to an at-large bid to the NCAAs the next season. Gaitley left Saint Joseph's a year later after she was fired.
Despite the tough loss, the Rams have flourished under Gaitley since she came to the school two seasons ago from Monmouth. They reached victory milestones they haven't achieved in decades, clinching their first winning seasons since 1994-95. Fordham also won 10 games out of conference for the first time since 1983-84. Not too shabby for a team that went 0-29 in 2008 to set the NCAA record for futility in a season.
None of the current players were on that team and the Rams have benefited from two stellar transfers. Rooney followed Gaitley from Monmouth when she took over the Rams' program two years ago. Rooney had to sit out last season because of transfer rules, but has made an impact this year.
Strickland also transferred into Fordham after spending time at Maryland and South Carolina.
This was the first year that the women, along with the men, played at the Barclays Center. In the past the women played their tournament on four consecutive days in Philadelphia. Now these two teams had a six-day break to prepare for the final.
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