By Jake Carapella
ROCHESTER — Following Friday night’s 83-66 loss to the hosting Rochester Yellowjackets, State University of New York at New Paltz women’s basketball coach Jamie Seward did not hold back in assessing his team’s performance.
Saturday afternoon, the Hawks brought renewed energy to the table in the consolation final against The College of New Jersey on their way to a 62-54 victory over the Lions.
Brianna Fitzgerald opened the scoring with a layup, and Gabby Palladino hit a corner 3, which was a part of a quick 5-1 start for SUNY New Paltz. TCNJ junior guard Julia Setaro, who scored 10 points in the first half and ended up with a game-high 16, hit a 3 to cut the score, 5-4, but it was the last points the Lions scored in the period as the Hawks finished the period on a 13-point run to earn an 18-4 advantage after the first quarter. They pressured the ball and trapped ball handlers, coming away with six steals. They also shot a strong 47 percent (7-for-15) in the first 10 minutes.
“We came out and played really well for about 15 minutes,” said Seward. “We were pressuring the ball, flying around and pounding the offensive glass. Unfortunately, we were unable to sustain it and got ourselves into a dogfight.”
The dogfight crept in in the second, as Lexi Van Vorst scored on a nice hook shot with 8:26 on the clock for the first points in the quarter by either team. After back-to-back 3-pointers from Cassidy Deaver and Van Vorst put SUNY New Paltz up 29-13, TCNJ went on a 7-0 run, before Maddie Gillis stopped the run with two free throws off a hard drive to the basket where she drew a foul. To end the half, Lions freshman Arianna McCleod, who scored 15 points in the game, converted a layup with 10 seconds to go to cut the score 31-22. After shooting 44 percent in the opening quarter, SUNY New Paltz dipped to 28 percent in the second, though they did have a balanced first half attack. Fitzgerald had six points at the break, Van Vorst and Deaver had five, and Gillis had four.
The Lions got off to a good start in the second half, cutting the Hawks lead to four, 31-27, off a McCleod lay-in and a Setaro three ball from the left corner, coming off some good ball movement where the ball was swung around nicely.
Seward was hit with a technical shortly thereafter, but Setaro only made one of two technical free throws and SUNY New Paltz regrouped to push the lead up to seven when Gillis drove hard right, drew a foul, and connected from the line. Three points from Cassidy Deaver pushed the Hawks lead to 10 going into the fourth.
Fitzgerald took over in the final period, scoring nine of her team-high 15 points in the final 10 minutes. After a McCleod layup cut the SUNY New Paltz lead to four, 55-51, with 5:44 remaining, Fitzgerald put her team on her back. She first scored on a left-handed layup off the glass, then a jumper, then another jumper, and then a hook shot, going on her own personal 8-0 run to give the Hawks a 60-49 advantage and put the game out of reach. She added a free throw with 1:12 on the clock for the final points of the game for SUNY New Paltz.
“Bri played really well, but we need her to play smarter and not get herself three fouls in a half for the second day in a row,” said Seward. “But it is quite obvious how much different we are with Bri on the floor.”
The Hawks shot 43 percent in the final quarter, better than their overall 35 percent for the game. They did most of their damage inside the 3-point line, taking 20 less 3-pointers than they did in the opening game of the tournament. They got to the line 22 times, making 14, and despite getting out-rebounded 45-40, forced TCNJ into 22 turnovers. All game long, the Hawks employed traps, got their hands on the ball (to the tune of 14 steals), and forced tie-ups. Their sense of urgency overall was evident from the very beginning of the game.
“It was good for us to play through the adversity and pick ourselves up and finish a close, tough game, especially with Graci [Serravillo] out and Bri and Maddie playing through foul trouble,” Seward said.
Aside from Fitzgerald’s complete stat line of 15 points on a very efficient 7-for-10 from the field, six rebounds, three assists, one rebound and one steal, Gillis (11 points) and Deaver (11 points) were the other Hawks in double figures in the game, while Van Vorst added eight. Deaver was a huge catalyst off the bench with her nine rebounds and high energy.
“Cass definitely was far more aggressive offensively than she’s been thus far this season, and we need that from her,” Seward said. “We have too many one-way wing players, and Cass certainly has the ability to be a two-way player.”
Next up on the schedule for SUNY New Paltz is a road game Nov. 20 at 2 p.m. against Misericordia.
“It’s definitely good to get a win with a long ride home and a full week before we play again,” said Seward. “But regardless of the outcome, we have a lot of work to do in pretty much every aspect. It’s a big week ahead and I’m hoping we come out ready to get after it on Monday.”