The Women’s basketball team defeated SUNY Buffalo 79-58 in the quarterfinal round of the 2015 SUNYAC Tournament on Tuesday, Feb. 24 at the Hawk Center.
With the win, the Hawks advance to the semifinal round of the tournament. They next travel to tournament host and No. 1 seed in the SUNYAC conference SUNY Geneseo to play the No. 2 seed SUNY Cortland, Friday at 5:30 p.m.
At halftime, the Hawks held a 45-22 lead.
Hawks second-year forward Courtney Irby scored a game-high 18 points and grabbed seven rebounds. Hawks second-year guard/forward Kit Small scored 14 points and grabbed a team-high nine rebounds.
This is the Hawks’ first postseason appearance in two years since New Paltz won the 2012-13 SUNYAC Championship – the first in program history.
Head Coach Jamie Seward said the Hawks team that won the 2012-13 SUNYAC Championship had an experience factor: they had three seniors who had played since their freshman years. At the end of it, it comes down to playing basketball, he said.
“Experience is nice, but we do have talent, and talent is also nice,” he said. “I don’t think they’re [this year’s team] a group that is going to be phased by the ‘big moment’. They’re going to go play basketball. They have fun with it, and they’re a fun group to coach because of that. That’s how we’re going to lay it out there and go do what we do and have fun doing it and just get lost in the moment and excited about the opportunity, not debilitated by the pressure of a playoff or conference tournament situation.”
The Hawks finished their regular season with a 17-8 overall record and 13-5 SUNYAC conference record.
Seward said this year’s team’s greatest strength this season is depth as opposed to the 2012-13 championship team.
“This year, we don’t have to rely on anybody to play 34-35 minutes a game,” he said. “While you need your best players to play well, for sure, we can also have some of our kids have off days and know that we have other pieces to be able to step in and be able to jump right up and contribute and maybe make up for somebody who is not at their best or not having their best day.”
To end their regular season, the Hawks won a pair of home wins last weekend.
With a 73-63 win over Buffalo State on Friday, Feb. 20, the Hawks secured the No. 3 spot in the SUNYAC conference standings. Four Hawks finished in double figures. Small scored a team-high 16 points and grabbed 10 rebounds to record her third double-double of the season. Irby earned her third double-double of the season as well scoring 10 points and grabbing a game-high 12 rebounds. Hawks third-year forward/guard Colleen Ames scored 13 points off the bench, and Hawks fourth-year co-Captain Shannan Walker scored 12 points.
The following day, the Hawks defeated the SUNY Fredonia Blue Devils 68-46 to conclude their regular season schedule with ten-straight home wins at the Hawk Center. Three graduating fourth-years, including Walker, co-Captain Ashley Riefenhauser and co-Captain Christine Rivera, were honored before the game.
Ames scored a game-high 16 points, including four three-pointers, five rebounds and two steals in 17 minutes on the court coming off the bench. Small scored 13 points and extended her double-digit point scoring streak to 14 games. Irby recorded her second-straight double -double and fourth of the season with 10 points and a game-high 12 rebounds. As a team, the Hawks held a 53-41 edge in rebounds and forced 32 turnovers on the day.
Walker said winning the first round at home and coming out strong was huge, especially since the team did not make the playoffs last season.
The Hawks have split a pair of games against Cortland during the regular season, their win coming on Saturday, Jan. 31 at the Hawk Center.
Seward said the team is not doing anything differently to prepare for the upcoming semifinal game.
“We will just work on a couple of little things and try to get just a little bit better,” he said. “At this point we pretty much are who we are, and we like who we are.”
Riefenhauser said the team has been making many goals day-by-day which they have focused on from the beginning of the season and that they are still sticking by today, which is to become SUNYAC and National Champions.
“In order for our team to reach those goals, we must continue to do the little things in practice and continue to push one another on a competitive level on a consistent basis,” she said. “We know how capable our team is and we’re so eager to achieve these goals.”