The College of Staten Island women’s basketball squad nearly saw their unbeaten mark in the CUNYAC come to an end, but were able to hold on via overtime in an 80-77 win over Hunter College Friday night at the Sportsplex in Manhattan.  The Dolphins improved to 13-3 overall and 8-0 on the CUNYAC with their sixth-straight win, while the Hawks fell to 6-11, 3-5, respectively.

In a game that featured five lead changes and 12 ties, CSI did lead for most of the way.  To do so the team erased an 8-0 Hunter lead in the opening minute and a half as HC senior Kristen Markoe scored all eight points.  The Hawks later went up 15-5 at 16″04 before CSI started to charge back.  A basket by Melanie Johnson got the Dolphins started, and then Nikki Fabozzi added two straight three’s to make it 15-13.  Later, down 19-13, CSI used a 7-1 run over six minutes to knot the score at 20-20 on a Fabozzi runner.

At 3:06, Hunter grabbed its final lead of the first half, 27-26, before CSI ended the frame on an 8-0 run to take a 34-27 lead into the lockers.  The run was highlighted by two Johnson three-pointers, as CSI shot 7-20 from downtown in the first half alone.

HC immediately cut CSI’s lead down to one early in the second half, aided by two Kristen Sells three’s.  Still, CSI did not relinquish the lead, and later took its biggest lead, 51-43, with 10:32 to play on a Katelyn Hepworth lay-up.  HC then played catch-up from there, and kept the lead within range until two Sells’ free-throws got the Hawks back on top 60-59 with 5:56 to go.

Then, free-throws were crucial down the stretch.  After Hunter went up by three with 2:10 to go, CSI’s Hepworth made a pair of freebies to close the deficit to one and after forcing a quick turnover; Hepworth was fouled again and made another two free-throws.  The four free ones in less than three seconds gave CSI back the lead with 2:07 to play.

After a Markoe free-throw the other way, CSI’s Victoria Gallinaro buried another three to give CSI a 68-63 edge with just 1:15 to play, but unfortunately, that lead would quickly evaporate.  With just 44 seconds to go, HC’s Nicole Lenard was able to score a quick lay-up, and then they forced a quick CSI turnover.  Markoe would miss a three for Hunter, but waiting there for the rebound was Lenard, who banked one in with just 22 ticks left to make it 68-67 in favor of CSI.  Hunter then fouled CSI’s Jamie Pifalo with :14 to go, but the sophomore missed both free throws giving the ball back to Hunter.  They too came up empty, turning the ball over and then fouling Johnson with :09 to go.  Johnson hit both free-throws putting CSI up by three, but there was still plenty of action to go.  With tie winding down the ball found Lenard, who buried a long-range three at the buzzer to tie the score at 70-70, enforcing overtime.

CSI never trailed in OT, but there was still plenty of drama.  The Dolphins scored the first three points, but later, a Lenard lay-up forced a 75-75 tie with 1:11 to play.  CSI then made good via a Hepworth jumper and after a Hunter miss the Hawks then fouled the Dolphins.  Johnson made another two to give CSI a 79-75 lead but Hunter countered with a lay-up with :11 to go.  They fouled again, and after Johnson hit the first CSI was up 80-77.  Johnson would miss the second free-throw with :07 to play, but Hunter, who had out-rebounded CSI in the game, 57-45, failed to get to the rebound in this case and CSI was able to run out the clock and win the nail-biter.

CSI shot just 36.7% for the game, connecting on 12-of-31 shots from beyond the three-point line.  The team was led by Johnson’s whopping 32 points on 9-21 shooting, adding 12 rebounds.  Hepworth added 18, including a 10-14 clip at the free-throw line.  The Dolphins uncharacteristically turned the ball over a hefty 26 times.  HC was led by Lenard’s 24 points.  Markoe scored 19 with 10 rebounds, and Dimitra Thomopoulos banked 10 points and a game-high 13 rebounds.

CSI will be back in action on Wednesday, January 22, when they face off against York College at 5:30pm.