Women’s basketball: Sims, Harrison lead Pitt to victory over St. Francis

By Kelly Flanigan

While most students headed home for Thanksgiving Break, the No. 24 Pitt women’s basketball (3-0)… While most students headed home for Thanksgiving Break, the No. 24 Pitt women’s basketball (3-0) team took on the St. Francis (Pa.) Red Flash (0-4) at the Pete last night.

After a slow start for Pitt, marked by sloppy passes and 12 first half turnovers, the Panthers defeated the Red Flash, 75-70.

Pitt defeated every other opponent this season by more than 20 points. However, this didn’t seem to concern head coach Agnus Berenato.

“We’re really happy with this win,” she said. “It was a hard fought, tough win. We weathered the storm. Any time you play any team in-state the whole level of intensity and emotion goes up for both teams.”

Jania Sims scored 23 points in Tuesday’s contest, while Taneisha Harrison contributed 25 points for the Panthers, which tied her career-high point total.

“I think it gives me more confidence. The coaches believe in my shooting and offense. Having the confidence to go out there, shoot and play my game,” Harrison said of her performance.

Sims returned this year after missing last season to injury.

“Being able to play now from sitting out has allowed me to realize that any day can be your last game. I’m excited to be able to score now and be back on the court. The coaches challenged me to be a scoring point guard and lead the team,” Sims said.

A persistent St. Francis team refused to let the Panthers run away with the game in either half.

Just minutes into the game, St. Francis took away the Panther’s momentum as junior guard Allison Daly, who was named to the NEC All-Tournament team last season, scored on a fast break lay-up for the Red Flash, and shortly after recovered the ball after a Pitt offensive foul.

Kelley Doogan, a freshman guard, drained a three-pointer to cap off St. Francis’ first half run.

But the combined scoring efforts of Sims and Harrison extended the Panthers lead as the headed to halftime with a 44-35 advantage.

The second half was no different as the Red Flash limited their team to 15 turnovers while the Panthers had 19.

Pitt held off a late St. Francis surge as the Red Flash was forced to foul, and Harrison sank both free throws to put the game away.

St. Francis outrebounded Pitt by a 42-41 margin.

Pitt shot 53 percent in Tuesday’s contest, and was 4-for-11 from behind the arc. The Red Flash shot only 37 percent from the field, and was 10-for-26 from behind the arc.

Leading scorers for St. Francis were Samantha Leach with 20 points, Allison Daly with 14 and Britney Hodges with 16, which marked her 1,000 career points.

Coach Berenato also reached a milestone with Tuesday night’s victory — her 400th career win.

“I’m very into statistics, but I’m really not into those statistics. I’m ecstatic that I’m at Pitt and that I’m with this team. I cannot believe I’m here. I feel like the luckiest person in the world,” Berenato said. “We’re very happy that we’re 3-0 and undefeated on our home court. We expect that we will not have a drop off. We feel that we can really be a special team, so we’re working extremely hard.”

This matchup marked the first of three contests for Pitt over the holidays.

In the upcoming Thanksgiving tournament, which will be held at the Petersen Events Center, the Panthers will take on Appalachian State on Friday. Tipoff is set for 1 p.m.

Depending on the outcome of that game, the women will take on either Marshall or Miami University on Saturday. Tip-off for the game will be announced at a later time.