It did not come easy, but the College of Staten Island women’s basketball team took home their first CUNYAC Regular Season title since 2003-04, defeating John Jay College, 54-47, as part of CUNYAC play at JJC’s Doghouse in Manhattan this afternoon.  The win lifted CSI to 18-4 overall and 13-1 in the CUNYAC, while the Bloodhounds fell to 7-14, 5-8, respectively.  CSI can finish no less than in a tie for first place in the CUNYAC standings with two games remaining, but because they own the tiebreaker over Baruch College, should the two teams indeed end up tied, CSI has essentially clinched the title and the No. 1 seed in the upcoming CUNYAC Postseason Championship Tournament.

The road to the title did not come easy.  JJC’s Jamecia Forsythe connected on the first two baskets to help stake the Bloodhounds to an early 5-0 lead, erased promptly by an 8-0 run for the visiting Dolphins, highlighted by two Victoria Gallinaro baskets, setting the tone for a neck-and-neck first half.

The teams would work through five more lead changes in the first stanza.  The Bloodhounds led by as many as four, while CSI’s Katelyn Hepworth put CSI up an many as five, 26-21, with two minutes to play in the frame.  The Dolphins, however, wouldn’t score again, and JJC scored the final five points of the stanza to get the home Bloodhounds tied at intermission, 26-26.

The 5-0 JJC run to end the half turned into an 11-0 run when the home squad scored the first six points of the second half, powered by two Amanda Villegas drives to give JJC their biggest lead of the game, 32-26, with 16:40 remaining.  Held scoreless in the first half, Megan Myhre then nailed a three-pointer to break up the party and from there, CSI started to turn the tide.

Chipping away, the Dolphins got even on a Hepworth basket at 12:16 to make it 36-36, and from there the teams traded the lead twice.  Then, at 10:12, CSI strung together the most important stretch of the game, going on a 10-0 run over the next six minutes to take a 49-40 lead with 4:38 to play.  Melanie Johnson and Jamie Pifalo ended the run with back-to-back three’s while defensively, CSI held JJC to 0-for-8 shooting with three turnovers over that same stretch.

The game got interesting as CSI then went cold themselves, and JJC got to within 49-45, with 53 seconds to play, but fortunately for the Dolphins, the team went 5-of-6 from the free-throw line in the final minute to hang on, after starting the game just 5-of-14 from the stripe.  In the end, CSI held on by a 54-47 count.

Despite the win, the Dolphins shot a chilly 28.8% from the field, connecting on just 6-of-22 shots from downtown.  CSI was also out-rebounded, 59-45, but JJC couldn’t help themselves, shooting only 29.2% while committing a hefty 25 turnovers to the Dolphins’ 16.

Leading the way for CSI was Hepworth, who tallied 16 points with 9 rebounds.  Johnson ended with eight points, seven rebounds and a team-high four assists.  For JJC, the team was led by Forsythe’s 11 points and 14 rebounds.  Terri Chu had 10 points, while Sherrice Marshall has 15 rebounds.

For CSI, the win clinched the Dolphins’ first CUNYAC Regular Season Championship since the 2003-04 season, when the team ran the table with a 13-0 regular season.  The win total within the CUNYAC also matches the most ever in a single season, set that same year.

The Dolphins have three more games remaining and are chasing 20 wins for the first time since the 2008-09 season, when they finished 22-6.  CSI will host Hunter College Tuesday evening at 7:30pm at the Sports & Recreation Center.