The top-seeded College of Staten Island women’s basketball squad had its run towards a CUNYAC Final appearance thwarted this evening, falling to Hunter College, 74-65, as part of the CUNYAC/Con Edison Women’s Basketball Postseason Semifinals played at the Nat Holman Gymnasium at City College of New York. Hunter lifted its mark to 15-12 overall, securing a trip to the Final where they will face the winner of No. 2 Baruch College vs. No. 3 Brooklyn College. For CSI, their season will end with a record of 20-7, as they will now await word on a possible ECAC Metro NY/NJ Postseason Championship Tournament berth.
The Semifinal showdown was expected to be a good one, with the teams having traded wins on the other’s floor by just three points during the regular season, splitting the last 12 meetings overall. Still, neither team was essentially sharp in the opening minutes. The Hawks grabbed the early advantage, extending to an 8-0 lead over the first three minutes, aided by five straight Kristen Markoe points and a three-point play by Racquel Baudanza. From there, CSI, who missed their first three shots while committing a pair of early turnovers had to play catch-up, and the exercise lasted the entire frame.
In a recurring theme of the evening, each time CSI made a surge, the Hawks had an answer. A Nikki Fabozzi jumper at 13:53 got CSI within distance, capping a 9-4 run to make the score, 15-11, but a quick response from Baudanza via the three and a Dimitra Thomopoulos lay-in promptly put the Hawks back up 20-11, moments later. Further down the stretch, After Nicole Lenard gave Hunter their biggest lead of 11 points, the Dolphins ripped off another run, this time 10-2, to draw closer at 24-21, aided by two Victoria Gallinaro three-pointers. Again, Hunter surged. Seven-straight points from Lenard answered the call, and later, a Kristen Sells three with less than three minutes remaining gave the fourth-seeded Hawks some comfort. When CSI tried to rally again, cutting the lead to four, HC’s Joey Chan drained a bucket before intermission to put Hunter up at the break, 40-34.
As comfortable as Hunter was, it would get very tense in the second half, as CSI was finally able to break through and grab a lead. Unlike the first half, CSI was all business to start the second, racing to a 9-0 run while grabbing a 43-40 lead. Two Alyssa Carlsen baskets book-ended another Gallinaro three and CSI seemed poised to keep it going. Hunter had other plans, and down by two, Sells drilled another three to help the Hawks to a 49-48 edge. Although still plenty of time remained, the game seemed open for the taking, and it was ultimately Hunter that busted through. This time an 8-0 run by the Hawks, capped by a Lenard three-point play, gave Hunter the big edge, and from there, the Hawks were able to keep CSI at bay.
The Dolphins did not go down without a fight. On three different occasions CSI dropped Hunter’s lead down to a single possession, perhaps the biggest moment at 3:15, when Gallinaro dropped in another lay-in making the score 63-60. After forcing a HC turnover, Gallinaro was then fouled. The sophomore made the front end of her free-throws, but after a miss, Hunter capitalized the other way, going back up. A pair of possessions later CSI’s Jamie Pifalo notched her first basket, a three to cut the lead to 67-64, but again Hunter had an answer. The Dolphins fouled late into the next possession and with 55 ticks remaining Hunter dropped in a free-throw. After a CSI miss, the Dolphins were resorted to fouling and the Hawks capitalized, scoring their final eight points from the stripe to grab the 74-65 win, in a game that perhaps was closer than the final score would indicate.
Despite the loss, CSI got a monster game from Gallinaro, as the senior tallied 26 points on 8-16 shooting, adding five rebounds. Carlsen added 13 for CSI. Hunter did an outstanding job guarding CUNYAC MVP and CSI leading scorer Melanie Johnson, holding the senior to just four points and six assists. Three-point specialist Megan Myhre finalized with 11 points on 3-6 shooting from beyond the curve. Hunter’s Nicole Lenard shined, posting 24 points, five rebounds and four assists. Markoe added 14 points and a team-high 10 rebounds as well. Hunter out-rebounded the Dolphins, 45-35, including a 16-6 clip on the offensive glass.
The Dolphins’ season is essentially over for now, but the team could hold a spot in the ECAC Metro NY/NJ Postseason. The ECAC will make its selections for their tourney on Monday, March 3. Hunter will advance to the Final, which will also be played at CCNY’s Nat Holman Gymnasium on Friday, February 28, at 6pm.