New York, NY | The College of Staten Island women’s basketball team will successfully get a chance to defend their CUNYAC Championship in the conference’s final game on Friday, by virtue of their 80-56 win over No. 3 Lehman College in the CUNYAC/Army ROTC Postseason Basketball Championship Semifinal round this evening at the Nat Holman Gymnasium at the City College of New York.  The Dolphins (21-5) will face top-seeded Brooklyn College, the CUNYAC’s other semifinal winner tonight in a rematch of last year’s Final, on Friday evening at 6pm.  Lehman’s season finalized with a 16-11 record.

After taking both regular season meetings the Dolphins had plenty of scouting done on the Lightning, having last played the Bronx school just 13 days ago in the CUNYAC Regular Season finale.  Tonight’s matchup featured the same energized back-and-forth play, with the Dolphins finally shaking loose in the latter stages, never trailing the entire 40 minutes.  A tough out, Lehman refused to give in and cut the Dolphins lead to just six points in the fourth quarter before CSI ended the game on a 26-8 bender over the final seven minutes.

CSI finished hot, but also started the game the same way, racing out to a 16-2 opening thanks to a 14-0 run over the game’s first four minutes.  Jacquelyn Cali, Christina Pasaturo, and Victoria Crea each popped in a pair of field goals, with Crea and Pasaturo adding three-point goals.  The final six minutes of the period, however, belonged to Lehman, as they withstood some early foul trouble to end the frame on an 8-2 run, holding CSI to just 1-for-10 shooting to end the quarter with a whopping six turnovers.  CSI also went 0-for-5 from the free-throw line, a source of difficulty for both sides tonight.

The short break between quarters was welcomed for the Dolphins as they rebounded nicely and resumed crisper play in the second stanza.  Samantha Flecker gave CSI back a double-digit lead with a lay-up to start things off, and later a Cali three advanced CSI to a 27-14 edge.  Baskets by Lillybeth Garcia and Lynda Fields dropped CSI’s lead to 10 on two separate occasions, but a 7-2 CSI run to close the final two minutes of the half, highlighted by a Flecker three and then an off-balance jumper at the buzzer by Megan McEwan secured CSI a robust, 35-20, lead at halftime.

A dazzling three-point play by Crea officially gave CSI their biggest lead at 38-21 in the early stages of the second half, and from there, Lehman started to chip away, and the Dolphins, battling foul trouble of their own, could not seem to close the door on the Lightning.  After Rosa Perone pounded inside for a lay-up to put CSI up, 43-28, Lehman snapped back with a 7-0 run, spearheaded by a Fields three  and a Selena Lopez lay-up, cutting the deficit to 43-35, and forcing a CSI timeout.  Playing advanced minutes, McEwan provided a quick answer with a three from the corner of the arc, and CSI was able to temper Lehman enough to go into the final quarter up by an even-10, 50-40.

CSI missed their opening three shots in the fourth frame and Lehman took advantage, dropping the lead to seven on an Aliyah Dorsett drive and then later an Ayana Behagen three-point play, dropped CSI’s lead to just two possessions, 54-48 with 7:28 to play.  Instead of calling for time, CSI stayed the course, and Flecker nailed a three from the top of the arc to give the Dolphins the exhale it needed, and then after a miss, Flecker took the ball into her own hands and drove in for another lay-up.  Lehman would miss another basket, and Pasaturo followed by driving inside and converting from in-close to get CSI back up to 61-48 with 6:24 to go, seemingly taking the wind out of Lehman’s sails and getting the final 26-8 run to end the game started.

The closest Lehman would come from there was a Fields three from the top of the circle cut the lead to 12, 66-54 with 3:55 to go, but CSI answered right back with a 9-0 run, prompted by Flecker and Cali lay-ups and a three-point bomb from Angelique Price.  That was more than enough for the Dolphins, who scored their final five points on the line to seal it at 80-56.

Pasaturo would lead the way for the Dolphins with 18 points and seven assists, while Flecker earned 14 points and 14 rebounds.  CSI also got 14 points from Cali, who added four rebounds, and 14 more from Crea, who played just 25 minutes before fouling out.  Lehman was led by Fields’ 18 points, while Behagen posted 13 points and six rebounds, and Lisa Fields chimed in with 10 points.  Aliyah Dorsett finalized with just three points but added 10 rebounds.  CSI out-rebounded Lehman, 51-34, and are now 19-0 this season when they out-rebound their opponent.  The Dolphins also forced 28 Lehman turnovers, committing 25 of their own.  After shooting just 3-11 from the free-throw line in the first half, CSI rebounded nicely by making 13-18 in the second frame.

The Dolphins will get just a single day off before they return to the same floor as part of the CUNYAC Championship.  Their opponent is a familiar one in Brooklyn College, a 64-57 winner over Hunter College earlier this evening in their half of semifinal play.  The teams will be meeting for the fourth-straight year in the CUNYAC Tournament, and for the second-straight time in the conference Final.  The Dolphins took last year’s meeting, 53-42.  The teams split the Regular Season series at one game apiece with both teams winning on the other’s home floor.