Halejian’s Heroics Lift Bulldogs to OT win

Sarah Halejian. (photo by Sam Rubin '95, Yale Sports Publicity)
Sarah Halejian. (photo by Sam Rubin '95, Yale Sports Publicity)

Scores 4 of Team-High 17 Points in OT to lift Yale to Second Straight Win


BROOKLYN HEIGHTS, N.Y. — The Yale University women's basketball team has found plenty of success in overtime games over the course of the last nine seasons, and on Saturday, sophomore guard Sarah Halejian made sure the trend remained that way.

Halejian scored a team-high 17 points, including four of Yale's six points in the extra period, to lift the Bulldogs to a 66-62 overtime victory at St. Francis Brooklyn on Saturday at the Pope Physical Education Center.

It was just the third overtime game for Yale in the eight seasons under Chris Gobrecht, the Joel E. Smilow, Class of 1954, Head Coach of Women's Basketball. The only other overtime games were a 70-66 double-overtime victory at Dartmouth on Feb. 13, 2010, and a 77-73 overtime win over visiting Quinnipiac on Dec. 21, 2008.

Since the 2003-04 season, Yale has appeared in six overtime games and has won them all.

Halejian paced Yale (3-6) with her 17 points, while junior guard Janna Graf had 15 points and seven rebounds. Senior guard Megan Vasquez added 11 points, four rebounds and four assists, while senior captain Allie Messimer recorded a career-high five assists.

Canton, Conn., native Sarah Benedetti recorded her first career double-double with a season-high 18 points and a career-high 12 rebounds to lead St. Francis (2-5). Eilidh Simpson scored 14 points, while Jessica Kaufman added 11 points and nine rebounds.

"That's a good St. Francis team," Gobrecht said. "St. Francis is going to surprise a lot of people and they are going to beat a lot of people. I was really worried about this game and thought that it was going to be every bit as hard as it was. We didn't shoot the ball well. We are a much better shooting team than we showed, but we did enough good things today to win the game and Sarah played really well in the second half. She can score."

Behind 3-pointers from Messimer and Vasquez and Graf, Yale jumped out to its largest lead of the game, a 14-8 advantage, with 11:50 left in the first half.

However, St. Francis Brooklyn maintained pace with Yale the rest of the way, mainly thanks to the Terriers' rebounding advantage over the Bulldogs, but Benedetti had her say too.

Benedetti scored 12 of her 18 points in the second half on four 3-pointers to help the Terriers close a 28-23 halftime gap and force the overtime.

As good as Benedetti was in the second half, Simpson might be a bigger reason for the overtime period. The Terriers' sophomore guard scored 14 points with all nine of her second-half points coming in the final 6:00 of the second half.

Simpson's last points of the game came on a layup with 1:40 left that put St. Francis ahead 58-57, but Graf answered right back with a 3-pointer with 1:08 left to put the Bulldogs in the lead, 60-58.

Jasmin Robinson tied the game at 60-60 with a layup with 27 seconds left. That left time for one final play in regulation for the Bulldogs, but Graf's game-winning attempt rimmed out at the buzzer.

Halejian, who scored 10 of her points in the second half, took over from there. After both teams failed to score on their first possessions of overtime, Halejian put the Bulldogs in the lead with her layup with 4:17 left. Kaufman answered back with a layup of her own that tied the game at 62-62 with 3:37 left, but Halejian came back down the floor and drained a jumper with 3:07 left that put Yale up for good 64-62.

Both teams missed several scoring attempts the rest of the way until Vasquez sank a pair of free throws with 12 seconds left that secured the victory for the Bulldogs.

Yale will break for 12 days to take final exams before returning to action at 6 p.m. on Dec. 20 against Marist inside the friendly confines of John J. Lee Amphitheater.

Report filed by Jon Erickson Jr., Yale Sports Publicity