Lady Rams Leave the Big Dance
By Howard Goldin
BRONX NEWS, MARCH 24- The only team representing the Bronx in the Women’s NCAA Tournament, Fordham University, seeded 10th, played competitively throughout its first round contest against the seventh seeded California Lady Bears at Waco, Texas. A victor was not decided until the final seconds of the game.
The Lady Bears ran up their largest lead in the first half, six points, 13-7, with a three at 14:25. At that point, the Rams of Fordham began a 14-1 scoring run that raised their advantage to a game high of seven points, 21-14, at 7:51. The run was culminated by a three by Erin Rooney. After the last first half tie at 28, Fordham’s Emily Tapio sunk a basket that gave Fordham a 30-28 lead at the half.
During the second half, neither team displayed any intention to accept losing the contest. The score was knotted eight times and the lead changed hands on nine occasions.
Three of the lead changes took place during the final 31.5 seconds of play. With the Rams leading, 61-60, Afure Jemerigbe netted two free throw to give the Bears a 62-61 lead. The ball then was given to the star of each team, Erin Rooney of the Rams and Brittany Brown of the Bears to hopefully give her team a win. They are two of only three players in the NCAA this year who averaged at least 14 points, 6 rebounds and 5 assists per game.
With 19 seconds on the clock, Rooney’s basket provided the Rams with a 63-62 advantage. Five seconds later, Brown’s layup gave the lead back to the Bears, 64-63. Rooney took the final shot of the game, but it was blocked by Reshanda Gray. The block was caused by a defensive switch made by Cal coach Lindsay Gottlieb.
The two backcourt leaders of their teams played outstandingly and achieved double-doubles. Brown scored 22, 16 in the second half, dished 10 assists and grabbed 6 rebounds. Rooney scored 17, hauled down 10 boards and passed for five assists.
Coach Stephanie Gaitley assessed the two, one day before the contest was played, “I think Erin is very disciplined. I think she is more of a disciplined guard and I think Brittany can really create her own shots and she does a great job of getting other people shots as well. In so many ways, what they both do for their teams is very similar.”
Although the Rams were narrowly edged in Saturday afternoon’s contest, their improvement since Gaitley assumed the head coaching position is remarkable. In the 2007-8 season, the Rams were 0-29. Under the helm of Gaitley for the past three seasons, Fordham has won 62 games, a Fordham record high of 25 in each of the last two years.
Two star Fordham seniors commented on the team’s rise. Rooney remarked, “I think it’s just nice to be able to put a school on the map. It’s a great school, and people, I think, think of it as more of an academic school, and to be part of a team that can put it out there in in the sporting world and get people to recognize it, it’s pretty special.”
Another Fordham senior, Abigail Corning, said, “It means a lot to be a part of the historical run that we’ve put together and really building our program up from obviously winning zero six years ago.”
Meaningful comments regarding Fordham were tweeted by Scarsdale native Lindsay Gottlieb, the classy and highly successful coach of Cal, “Major credit and kudos to @Fordham WBB. Well coached is an understatement. [They are] excellent players with a winning attitude.”