On Jan. 10, the SUNY New Paltz women’s basketball team left Ben Light Gymnasium with their heads held low. The Bombers had defeated them 78–50 for their seventh loss of the season.
The scene was reversed March 4, as the Hawks left the gym screaming and jumping for joy after they defeated the Bombers 83–80 in the second round of the NCAA Championships and, in the process, ended the Bombers’ season.
New Paltz head coach Dan Seward said it was the adjustments the team made after the loss to the Bombers that helped them turn their season around.
“We never questioned the talent we had on this team,” Seward said. “I just didn’t do a very good job of putting that talent in the right places. … More so than anything, they just kept with what we were doing. It’s not like we changed drastically.”
The crowd was on its feet for the whole fourth quarter, but it did not affect the Hawks.
“We actually had a conversation at shoot around about the atmosphere,” New Paltz sophomore guard Lindsay Bettke said. “I feel like I play better when the crowd hates me.”
The intensity was high in the beginning of the game, with both teams making shots in the first 30 seconds. The two teams then developed into a rhythm for the rest of the first quarter.
With just under one minute left in the first quarter, the Bombers put together their best defensive series of the game, stopping the Hawks from getting anywhere close to the basket.
The Bombers ran into some trouble early in the second period after a series of turnovers and travel calls on four consecutive possessions. The Hawks led 31–22 with eight minutes left in the second quarter.
The Blue and Gold got back on track with seven minutes remaining in the half, when junior guard Julie Yacovoni cut the Hawks lead down to seven. Senior forward Erin Ferguson added a layup of her own to make the score 31–26. Ferguson cut the Hawks’ lead down further, hitting a layup and then adding a free throw to make it a two-point game.
Senior guard Ali Ricchiuti nailed down her 1,000th point with just under four minutes left in the half and in the process tied the game at 33.
New Paltz led by 10 points at the half. Ricchiuti and Ferguson led the Bombers with 10 points each. For New Paltz, senior guard Morgan Roessler led with 18 points, followed by Bettke with 13.
Junior guard Jordan Beers got the first points of the half for the Bombers, but New Paltz responded right away with a 3-pointer. The Hawks continued to drive through the Bombers’ defense and limit their offense. New Paltz led 69–56 at the end of the third quarter.
Ferguson had eight points in the third quarter. She got the scoring started in the fourth quarter, hitting a jumper 40 seconds in. Ricchiuti and Ferguson led the comeback effort, each making crucial baskets for the Bombers. The Blue and Gold were down by five with just under five minutes remaining in the game.
Ferguson and Yacovoni each knocked down baskets to bring the Bombers within one point. New Paltz responded with a quick jumper, and then after a jump ball battle called a timeout.
Beers tied the game with a minute and a half remaining on a breakaway layup, but New Paltz respond with a 3-pointer to take the lead back.
The Bombers called a timeout with 9.7 seconds remaining. They inbounded to Beers, who missed the shot attempt. Beers got one more attempt to hit the shot, but it was an airball. New Paltz held on to win 83–80.
Head coach Dan Raymond said he was proud of his team and the effort them put in.
“A game like that, it’s not won in the last few seconds of the game,” Raymond said. “It’s won and lost throughout the previous 39 minutes. … You can’t put it on any one player or any one play when the result doesn’t go your way.”