By Jerry Del Priore
No one can blame St. Joseph’s Women’s Basketball head coach Tom Flahive for not watching the videotape of last season’s 80-76 first-round Skyline Championship playoff defeat to SUNY Purchase at home in February.
Flahive said he doesn’t want to relive what happened, and this is a new season, with some fantastic returning players, with added new players and renewed hope.
With that being said, he does believe his 2019-20 Bears will defy the naysayers (the Skyline Conference Preseason Basketball Coaches Poll has them finishing fifth in the league) and go deep into the league’s playoffs this campaign.
While St. Joe’s (16-12, 12-6 last campaign) lost three seniors, two of which were starters, to graduation, including sharpshooter Victoria Porcasi and Caitlyn Staab, other Skyline Conference programs suffered the same inevitable fate, too.
“I was very disappointed, my staff was very disappointed,” Flavive admitted. “Obliviously, losing last year’s players’ production is tough to replace. But other teams lost top players as well.
“That’s something to help motivate us because we don’t think we’re a middle of the pack team,” he continued. “I believe it can be anyone’s championship, in my opinion. I definitely think we’re in a position to make the playoffs, unless all of the wheels on the bus fall off. But I think we can make a run to the championship, I really do.”
As far as reinforcements, St. Joe’s has reloaded with starting six-foot-one freshman center Emma Kiley, who Flahive said can be the post player that has been missing during his coaching tenure.
“She looks to post up,” Flahive said. “She loves to be on the block. She played really well in our scrimmage against Felician College in New Jersey. I think Emma has real potential. We’ll see real soon.”
Additionally, there are transfers Lauren Duggan and Kaitlyn Stenz, both of whom he originally recruited two years ago and sang their praises. Add in freshman guard Alexis Breen and freshman walkon Ayomide Adeoye, and the fifth-year coach said he’s more than satisfied with his new Bear players.
But then there’s returning standout starting junior guard Kelly O’Donnell, who averaged a team-best 18.5 points per game, plus 10.7 rebounds, 1.3 blocks, and 2.1 steals per.game.
“Kelly is a force to deal with,” Flahive said. “If you’re scouting and preparing for our team, you have to prepare for O’Donnell. The bottom line is, Kelly is not just a three-point shooter. She can get in the mind of the defense. She gets those defensive steals. If someone is not alert on a pass, Kelly gets in those passing lanes and could get those quick buckets.”
Plus, senior starting forward Lauren Quesada, who scored 11.5 points per game and grabbed 10.9 per tilt after playing her first full season since sustaining an ACL injury as a sophomore.
However, Flahive said, regarding the mental cautiousness of the injury, “Lauren is over that now,” adding that she should be ready to play even better this season.
Next, there’s junior guard Deserae Sequeira, who performed well of the bench last season but will see a bigger role as the starting point guard for St. Joe’s this year.
Flavine also said that Breen, a New Jersey native, will be a very good backup to Sequeira.
From three-point land, sophomore guard Jamie Provino, who rounds out the Bears’ start five, will provide a reliable long-range punch. The Harrison, New York, native shot 30.5 percent from behind the arc, good for third-best in the Skyline Conference last year.
All in all, Flahive said the team possess a lot more depth than last season, something that will play a huge part in the postseason, provided they make it, of course.
St. Joe’s tips off the season on Saturday against NYU at Hunter College at 4:00 p.m.