PHILADELPHIA, PA. 1/26/2020 – The La Salle Explorers won an Atlantic 10 game and got their first Big Five win under Coach Mountain MacGillivray with a 67 – 59 win over the Saint Joseph’s Hawks at the Tom Gola Arena. It was a highly significant win for MacGillivray.
“I am excited for our staff picking up a Big Five win and I didn’t want to go two years without getting one,” said MacGillivray. “Growing up here the Big Five has meant a lot. To be able to get a win over a great coach who has done an amazing job over the years, whose team year in and year out is one of the toughest teams in the league, it is a thrill.”
Two players were instrumental in getting the victory were Kayla Spruill and Claire Jacobs. Spruill scored a career-high 24 points and took down a collegiate-best 12 rebounds. She has scored in double-figures over the last eight games. Claire Jacobs added 21 points, the fourth time she has gone over the 20-point mark.
Both players are not from the Philadelphia area, but learned how intense that city series games can be.
“It is a special thing,” said Spruill, a Baltimore resident. “My freshman year we talked about getting a Big Five win and it was a big deal. We weren’t able to get one. This year my team is growing and progressing and because we got the win today.”
“Mountain is pretty big on it,” said Jacobs, who is from Australia. “I didn’t know what the Big Five was, and everyone was telling me that it was really big to win the game.
The Explorers got out to a good start in the game taking a 15 – 8 lead after one quarter. Getting out quickly was significant for La Salle.
“It was very important considering our team, when we start off well it gives us energy throughout the game,” Spruill said. “When we got the lead, it was ‘keep going, keep going, keep going.’
Defensively, the Explorers kept disrupting the Hawks offense. The flow of the Saint Joe’s offense was hampered by point guard Lula Roig getting into early foul trouble.
“Our point guard getting two fouls hurt us with the flow of our offense,” said Saint Joseph’s Coach Cindy Griffin. “It was disappointing because she runs the offense. We were a little bit out of whack.”
As mentioned this was a Big Five game. No one was going away and would be contested until the end. An 18-point La Salle lead was reduced to single digits four times with the closest at 63 – 57 with 1:13 to play. Throughout, the Explorers responded to every charge.
“What I thought was really important was that we answered every run,” MacGillivray said. “They cut it to six a couple of times, but every time we answered and got it back to ten. We finished there. I was pleased with the way we responded.”
Shalina Miller grabbed 10 boards and blocked six shots to add to her all-time program best record now standing at 158. Six deflections tied a career-high. La Salle won the rebounding battle 48 – 36.
The Hawks were led by Katie Jekot who scored 16 points. Kaliah Henderson added 14 while Gabby Smalls contributed 11 points.
The Explorers improve to 8 – 12 and are 2 – 5 in the Atlantic 10. They finish the Big Five season at 1 – 3. A two-game homestand continues with a game against George Mason on Wednesday.
“We are showing signs of getting better and this is a win we can build on,” said MacGillivray.
Saint Joe’s also turned in a 1 – 3 city series record. The Hawks are 8 – 11 overall and also have a 2 0 5 league record. SJU prepares for a home game on Wednesday as well meeting George Washington.
“I knew it was going to be a close game,” Griffin said. “They were coming off a tough loss and we were coming off a great win. You have to keep playing, keep your head up, and moving forward.”
They will meet again on Hawk Hill in mid-February.
Written By: Glenn Papazian