SLU Women Win On Lisch's Shot

ST. LOUIS — This first game for the Saint Louis University women's basketball team at Chaifetz Arena will hold a special place in the program's history thanks to Theresa Lisch's dramatic finishing act.

Lisch knocked down a long 3-pointer from the top of the arc with :00.7 seconds remaining to give the Billikens a thrilling 68-67 victory over Western Michigan on Sunday afternoon.

"I've never hit a game-winning shot," the junior guard said. "I've missed about three or four game-winning shots, so that one felt good."

Lisch finished with a team-high 20 points on seven-of-16 shooting, including four 3-pointers, and grabbed a game-high 11 rebounds. It was her fourth career double-double.

Junior guard Katie Paganelli chipped in with 18 points, eight rebounds and four assists. Freshman guard Alisha Goodwin came off the bench to score 12 points and helped set up Lisch's game-winner.

Katie Paganelli (SLU Photo)

Western Michigan (0-1) led 67-65 with 15.9 seconds remaining after Tiera DeLaHoussaye made one of two free throw attempts. Ebony Cleary grabbed the offensive rebound, but her pass was stolen away by Goodwin.

The Billikens called timeout with 8.9 seconds left to set up the final play. Lisch inbounded the ball and worked her way into position behind a screen. She took a pass from Goodwin on the wing and knocked down the shot.

"It's a new play," SLU coach Shimmy Gray-Miller said. "I actually stole it from (Texas coach) Gail Goestenkors. I figured, hell, if it works for her, it's got to be a good play if she uses it. We ran that once earlier in the game and we got a moving screen on it."

After Lisch's shot went down and the clock showed all zeroes, the Blue Crew rushed the floor from the student section.

"That was awesome," Gray-Miller said. "That was a flash back to our first year when we beat UMass and the student section did that. That's great. We love the Blue Crew."

The officials put :00.7 back on the clock, which gave the Broncos a chance.

Western Michigan freshman Miame Giden caught the inbounds pass and nearly sank a 45-foot turnaround desperation heave as the buzzer sounded.

"She got a good look at it and that kid is a really good kid," Gray-Miller said. "She was rated one of the top prep players in the country last year. We actually recruited her. I offered her a scholarship. But she was a package deal. She has a twin sister that was on the bench. They wanted to come together and that wasn't going to work out with us."

Saint Louis (1-1) returned home for its Chaifetz Arena debut after dropping its season opener, 85-77, on Friday night at Southern Illinois, despite a game-high 29 points from Lisch and 16 points from Paganelli.

The Billikens are without 6-foot-4 junior center Amanda Kemezys, who is out with an injury and leaves the team without much size inside. SLU started three guards and two forwards on Sunday, with the tallest being 6-foot sophomore Lauren Woods.

"She can't come back soon enough," Gray-Miller said of Kemezys. "We're hoping to have her back by the first of December."

The Billikens used some unorthodox combinations on the floor on Sunday.

"We're going four guards — and the last two minutes of the game we went five guards — and that's because we're so small inside," Gray-Miller said. "Our post players, that's our least experience with Amanda out. We really have no inside game right now. It's not a secret. We have no inside game. We're very small inside."

Western Michigan, playing its first game of the season, scored the first five points of the contest, but then went the next 9:20 seconds without a field goal. During that time, the Billikens answered with a 17-3 run — keyed by two 3-pointers from Lisch and another from freshman Janisha Gearlds — to take a 17-9 lead.

The visiting Broncos responded with a 13-3 run (SLU's only basket was a 3-pointer from freshman Alisha Goodwin) to claim a 22-20 lead with 4:51 left in the first half.

The Billikens closed out the first half on a positive note. Lisch scored seven points in the final 3:33, including her third 3-pointer of the game and Paganelli shook off a rough start to knock down a 3-pointer as Saint Louis built a 34-27 lead at halftime.

SLU scored the first two points of the second half before the Broncos answered with a 10-0 run, including six points from Brenna Banktson (game-high 22 points).

From there, the game went back and forth with neither team able to pull away. Western Michigan held its largest lead, 58-52, with 4:24 remaining after two free throws from Giden (19 points).

SLU rallied down the stretch, with Paganelli scoring eight points in the final 3:43. But the game was slipping away from the host Billikens.

Saint Louis U. trailed 66-65 with 25 seconds remaining when Lisch drove down the lane and missed a shot over several defenders that would have put the Billikens back in front.

After DeLaHoussaye (10 points) made one free throw and Cleary (10 points and 10 rebounds) snagged the offensive rebound, it looked like SLU was sunk in its Chaifetz Arena opener.

But then Goodwin got the steal, Lisch made one of the biggest shots of her career and the Billikens were able to celebrate a victory in their first game in their long-awaited on-campus facility.

"It's just great," Lisch said. "It's great for our whole team, our coaches, everyone that's part of our program and that's been working hard since preseason. It's great to get a win in our first official game in the Arena."

When Gray-Miller was asked where Lisch's game-winning shot ranked in her memory bank of the standout junior guard's highlights, the coach smiled.

"This is right up there," she said.

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