Sunday, March 21, 2004

Bolten, Hewitt headed to NCAAs

College update: Former foes lead St. Francis (Pa.) into Tournament

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In the game of college hoops, Sarah Bolten finally got tired of losing.

She left Glen Este High School for Butler University with big hopes, but when the team went 3-26 her sophomore season, she knew it was time for a change.

So she might not be the marquee player at another school. So she would have to sit out a year per NCAA transfer rules. So what.

"I definitely wanted to go somewhere to be successful," said Bolten, a 5-10 guard.

She transferred to St. Francis University in Pennsylvania and joined CHCA graduate Karen Hewitt on one of the most up-and-coming teams in the country. The Northeast Conference champions (25-5) earned a 15-seed in the NCAA Tournament and play No. 2 Purdue in Ames, Iowa at about 9:30 tonight.

St. Francis head coach Jill Poe has led the team to a school-record 25 wins and the nation's second-longest active winning streak (20 games) in her inaugural season. Though the Red Flash has never won an NCAA Tournament game, this marks their eighth tournament appearance.

Poe said talent and chemistry - with no small nod to the self-described 'Cincinnati Connection' tandem of Hewitt and Bolten - has fueled the team's fire.

"It's kind of like having a puzzle where one picture shows up. You rearrange the pieces and it comes in a whole lot clearer," Poe said.

Bolten and Hewitt go way back, playing on a club basketball team in high school. Bolten said Hewitt's skill, and a complement of standouts that include Beth Swink and Tonjee Ward, were part of the reason she chose St. Francis.

Hewitt was delighted to hear the news.

"Knowing her in the past has helped in the transition," she said. "She brings a lot of height, depth and defensive energy."

It's Hewitt who's a big reason for the team's success. Since January, the senior point guard has set school records for assists in a game (16), season (195) and career (567), shattering 11-year records held by Maureen Logan.

Hewitt said she wasn't keeping track of how many assists she needed for each record. Just before she broke the single-game record Jan. 10 in a 104-59 win over Saint Francis New York, Hewitt thought she was coming out of the game for good.

"I didn't know what was going on until Coach said, 'We're leaving you in 'til you break that record,' " Hewitt said. "I didn't even know how many assists I needed or anything."

Poe introduced Hewitt to Logan during a Hall of Fame induction earlier this year. She had a hunch Hewitt would surpass the records before the season's end.

"I remember (Hewitt) saying to Maureen Logan, 'You've made it a tough mark. I'd be happy to finish second to you,' " Poe said. "That's how she is. She does what she needs to do and like her teammates, doesn't look at the stats."

Bolten has scored in all 30 games this season and Hewitt averages a team-high 6.5 assists per game. They know their best is what it'll take to oust Big Ten Tournament champion Purdue (27-3), which boasts Lebanon grad Lindsey Hicks and Mason alum Beth Jones.

"The main thing," Hewitt said, "is that we've got to remember what we've done. We've got to realize what got us here."



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