BRONX, NY - The normal operating procedure for a holiday tournament is as follows: Invite two weaker teams as first round fodder. Invite a third which could be a challenge. Put the last team in the opposite bracket to insure not seeing them until the championship. At the tenth annual Fordham Holiday Classic, the host did it a lot different.
The women’s basketball get-together at Rose Hill Gym featured three teams with combined records of 24-4. Fordham checked in at an impressive 9-4. The Rams drew undefeated Buffalo in the first semifinal. To no surprise, the game went down to the second-to-last possession with the Bulls staying undefeated, 58-54.
In the second semifinal, Harvard withstood a challenge from UNC Asheville before asserting themselves on the way to a 79-62 triumph and date with Buffalo in the finals. So the championship features an undefeated Buffalo (10-0) and Harvard at 10-1, with the lone setback in the season opener at Minnesota. Quite a championship game on tap. Third place has quite entertaining possibilities as well, featuring Fordham and UNC Asheville, both talented and on the north side of .500.
For host Fordham, this tournament was no walk in the park. Three quality teams entered, teams oft-overlooked in national conversations, yet teams you must prepare for and be ready to play. Fordham coach Stephanie Gaitley hopes it all pays dividends down the road. Guaranteed after today’s semifinals, the host school will not enter the winner’s circle. The objective here was to invite quality competition, two guaranteed dates of preparing for and facing a worthy opponent. Chalk this up as a competitive investment, with those dividends set to be paid in early March - Atlantic 10 Conference Tournament time.
Fordham in a pregame huddle before taking the floor:
Stephanie Reid of Buffalo sets up the Bulls' offense:
Fordham coach Stephanie Gaitley assesses the situation:
Fordham point guard Lauren Holden on the move:
Buffalo huddles in a victory formation:
Danielle Burns of Fordham meets the media:
Game action, with Harvard taking on UNC Asheville:
Harvard freshman Katie Benzan gets a break during a free throw:
The postgame handshake line following Harvard's win over UNC Asheville: