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St. Joseph’s women playing their best basketball as Atlantic 10 Tournament nears

The Hawks have won five of their last six games.

Alyssa Monaghan leads the Hawks in scoring.
Alyssa Monaghan leads the Hawks in scoring.Read moreDAVID MAIALETTI / Staff Photographer

The St. Joseph’s women’s basketball team has endured a frustrating season, but the Hawks seem to be turning things around at the most appropriate of times with the Atlantic 10 tournament approaching on March 8.

The Hawks are 11-16, 7-7 in the Atlantic 10, but have won five of their last six games, a stretch that includes a season-best four-game winning streak.

St. Joseph’s bounced back from a 66-57 loss to Duquesne last week by winning at Rhode Island, 55-48, on Sunday.

“We really struggled shooting the ball in the beginning of the year, and we have been able to stretch out the floor, playing more small,” coach Cindy Griffin said after a recent practice at Hagan Arena.

To spread the floor, Griffin started using a four-guard alignment. She used it a little in a Jan. 9 home loss to St. Louis. The Hawks began using it regularly the next game, and since then, they are 7-5.

“With four guards, we have been able to spread things out and get more production,” Griffin said.

Leading that guard unit is 5-foot-5 senior point guard Alyssa Monaghan, the only player on the team averaging double figures in points (14.5). She is third in the A-10 in minutes per game at 37.5.

“She is having a great year,” Griffin said. “I think playing with a four-guard offense has helped her with space, and now teams have to cover three other perimeter players.”

Monaghan has scored 1,203 career points and is encouraged by the Hawks’ recent play. “I think we are turning the corner,” said Monaghan, a graduate of Bonner-Prendergast High. “Even though it’s late in the year, we are still improving.”

The Hawks have suffered some injuries after they entered the season with a relatively inexperienced team. So far, Griffin has used 62 combinations of players on the court. “That’s a lot,” Griffin said.

Now, things seem more settled. Senior guard Kristalyn Baisden (8.2 ppg) is the second-leading scorer, just ahead of redshirt freshman guard Katie Jekot (7.5).

The immediate goal is finishing among the top eight in the A-10 and earning a first-round home game in the conference tournament.

The Hawks are in a three-way tie for seventh place with George Washington and George Mason and have two games left in the regular season. They will visit George Mason on Wednesday and finish at home on Saturday in a noon game against Fordham.