SUNY New Paltz Women Fall in NCAA Second Round

By Monica D’Ippolito

NEW PALTZ – The State University of New York at New Paltz couldn’t climb out of an early deficit against Baldwin Wallace in the second round of the NCAA Tournament Saturday night in the Hawk Center.

The Hawks shot a season-low 22.4 percent from the floor and made just two shots in the second quarter, which allowed the Yellow Jackets to get out in front by double figures. The shooting woes continued in the second half and ultimately, SUNY New Paltz couldn’t generate enough of the offensive end to cut into the deficit and fell, 65-42.

“All credit to Baldwin Wallace. They played really well. They’re a really good team. They’re a tremendous, tremendous program,” said Hawks coach Jamie Seward. “I think they’ve been to three or four Elite 8’s and as long as I’ve been in college basketball, that’s one of the teams that you always see playing in the NCAA Tournament. We’re trying to get to that point and that’s what’s frustrating is that we had a great team, and we didn’t play our best. Not to take away anything away from them. They had a lot to do with it, but we didn’t have our best performance tonight and that’s basketball, that’s sports, but it’s just a great team. Certainly, if not the best team, one or two of the best teams I’ve ever been around or coached, and definitely the toughest team I’ve ever been around.”

SUNY New Paltz opened the game strong, forcing nine turnovers in the first quarter alone, while limiting Baldwin Wallace to just 2-for-10 from the floor. Jenny Walton was catalyst defensively, totaling five of her seven steals in the game in the opening 10 minutes. However, the Hawks couldn’t capitalize on the mistakes as they too made just two baskets in the period, hitting on 2-for-20 attempts, most of which came around the basket.

The two teams were tied at six apiece entering the second quarter with Walton giving her team a 9-6 lead after opening up the period with a made trey. Caely Ressler answered for the Yellow Jackets, getting to the hoop on the next possession and earning two from the line. She made 1-of-2, but soon tied the score at nine following a steal and a make going coast-to-coast on the turnover.

Ressler then started getting hot from the floor, facilitating an 11-point run where she registered six points in the stretch. Leah Riley capped the surge with a 3-pointer to bring the lead to 17-9 with 4:30 to go. Brianna Fitzgerald put an end to the scoreless streak, establishing herself inside the paint and finishing underneath to get the Hawks back within six.

Ressler returned to the foul line to extend the lead to seven. Julia Sabatino made back-to-back plays on the defensive end, picking off Baldwin Wallace passes for the steal, but SUNY New Paltz couldn’t take advantage of the miscues on the offensive end. Instead, Ressler stayed hot and drained another triple with about two minutes to go to officially establish a double-digit cushion. Sabatino earned back some points as she earned a trip to the foul line where she made both, but the Yellow Jackets had the final say of the half as Riley got to the hoop in the final seconds to push the cushion to 29-13 at the break.

“I thought we came out and played very well to start the game,” Seward said. “We talked about in the first media timeout at the end of the first quarter that we were getting a lot better shots than them. I thought during that period we were getting the better shots, we just weren’t finishing them and then we took some bad shots in the second quarter. Those and a couple turnovers led them to getting some open looks in transition and they made them.”

The second quarter run proved critical in the game, as Baldwin Wallace out-scored the Hawks, 23-7 in the period, while shooting an efficient 8-for-15, including 5-for-6 from the the perimeter with Ressler accounting for 3-for-3 of its attempts from behind the arc. While in turn, SUNY New Paltz made just 2-for-12, going scoreless for near seven-minute stretch in the period.

“I thought we got a lot of open looks off of back screens and we got a lot of open 3’s,” Walton said. “At the end of the day, they just weren’t falling. We weren’t going strong to the basket. We had the open look, but we weren’t going strong and hard to the basket. We were just looking for the foul, so we couldn’t finish those, but we were getting good looks.”

Baldwin Wallace kept its momentum to start the third quarter and ballooned its lead to 21 in the opening minutes of the period with Emily Irwin extending the score to 34-13 after a made 3. SUNY New Paltz started finding some rhythm with looks inside, as Sabatino, Fitzgerald and Abby Korzekwinski all hitting in the paint to trim the difference to 15.

Ressler, though, once again came through for the Yellow Jackets, taking advantage of a long defensive rebound off a missed Hawks 3 and earning a quick bucket the other way to extend the difference back to 17.

Madison Mullman knocked down a much-needed shot from the perimeter one minute later with Fitzgerald hitting in the paint once again to get SUNY New Paltz within 12 with about four minutes left, but another made 3-pointer by Ressler stalled the almost rally, as Baldwin Wallace continued keeping its distance from the Hawks.

“I feel like we came out of halftime with a plan, and we knew we had to play excellent defense to make a comeback in the second half,” Fitzgerald said. “Right off the bat, it kind of got away from us offensively, which led to some easy transition plays for them and they took it to us hard. At the end of the day, again, our shots just weren’t falling for us.”

SUNY New Paltz trailed by 15 entering the fourth and with Baldwin Wallace finding its rhythm offensively, it built on its already comfortable lead to ultimately hold onto the win and advance on to the Sweet 16 round of the NCAA Tournament.

Walton and Fitzgerald led the team offensively with 14 points apiece. Walton added five rebounds, an assist, a block and a game-high seven steals, while Fitzgerald totaled five boards, three assists, two blocks and two steals. Korzekwinski followed with seven points, a team-high 11 rebounds and an assist. Sabatino chipped in with four points, six rebounds, a team-leading four assists, two steals and a block.

The loss ended the Hawks historic season at 25-4 overall, tying the most wins in program history with their four losses tied for the least ever in program history. They return the bulk of their roster, but graduate Erin Cooney, Gabby Palladino and possibly Jenny Walton. The three were instrumental to the success of the team this past season with Walton leaving as one of the best players to play for the storied program.

“I’ve been Jenny’s teammate for over 10 years now and there’s no one else I’d rather take the basketball court with,” Fitzgerald said. “Obviously, we didn’t have our best game today, but she’s just so trustworthy, one of the best teammates. Sometimes I feel like we just share a mind on the court, and I will really, tremendously going to miss playing with her as well as Gabby and Erin. They’re great teammates, they’re great people and I loved creating history with them.”

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