The women’s basketball team increased their winning streak to eight games with victories against State University of New York Athletic Conference (SUNYAC) rivals SUNY Fredonia and Buffalo State this past weekend.
New Paltz first defeated SUNY Fredonia by a score of 70-61 on Friday, Feb. 3 in the Hawk Center, followed by a 90-55 win against Buffalo State to clinch a SUNYAC playoff berth on Saturday, Feb. 4. This is the team’s third-straight appearance in the tournament.
New Paltz and Fredonia were neck and neck at the beginning of the first quarter before the Blue Devils got some temporary breathing room after fourth-year guard Khee Nance hit a layup in the paint to make it a 19-11 game with 3:58 to go.
The Hawks were able to end the quarter down only two points with help from fourth-year co-captain Courtney Irby who hit a three-pointer, followed by a jumper from second-year guard Lindsay Bettke, a layup from first-year guard Marion Dietz in the paint and two good free throws from first-year forward Maddie Van Pelt.
New Paltz stayed within striking distance in the second quarter, finishing the half down only six points.
The third quarter saw the lead switch hands a couple times, but in the fourth, New Paltz broke away and took a lead they wouldn’t look back from.
Fourth-year co-captain Kit Small registered 12 points in the final quarter to help seal the deal for the Hawks.
Small says that she sees the team playing more confidently and it is translating into wins.
“We got off to a slow start in league play, but we made a lot of changes to our offense and defense,” Small said. “We have really become a different team and have started playing with confidence. That was when we started to look like the team we knew that we could be all along.”
Prior to Saturday’s game against Buffalo State, Small was honored for becoming the program’s all-time scoring leader with 1,177 career points.
Small shattered the record previously held by Robin Shields, ‘00, with 20 points against SUNY Oneonta on Jan. 14. Shields held the record for 16 years with 1,135 points before Small broke it last month.
Much like their game against SUNY Fredonia, the first quarter against Buffalo State was a seesaw affair, but the Hawks were able to end the period with a three-point lead after first-year guard Sandi Harris hit a late three-pointer with 53 seconds to go.
New Paltz then broke away in the second quarter, with Small pulling down eight points and Bettke raking in five more.
The Hawks exploded in the third to increase the lead to 26 points, and by the fourth, the team held a game high 39 point lead with 5:05 to go. New Paltz would go on to win the game by a final score of 90-55.
New Paltz shot 48.5 percent from the floor (32-for-66), 42.9 percent (12-for-28) beyond the arc, converted 37 points off turnovers and accumulated 28 bench points.
Four Hawks reached double digits in scoring, with Small logging 20 points, first-year guard Sandi Harris chipping in 15 points, Bettke registering 13 points and Dietz recording 10 more.
“We are hungry. Plain and simple,” Bettke said, who collected a career-high eight assists on Saturday. “We hit a rough patch in the middle of the season, which proved to be a wake-up call for us, and we’re the type of team that isn’t okay with losing. Before every game now, we tell ourselves that we are going to treat the game like it’s our last, like everything is on the line. With that mentality, we believe we can beat any team that steps on the court with us.”
On Feb. 6, it was announced that Small was named the SUNYAC Women’s Basketball Player of the Week. She currently ranks sixth in the conference in points per game with 13.7 and steals per game with 1.8.
The Hawks will have their work cut out for them this upcoming weekend, with bouts against The College at Brockport on Friday, Feb. 10 and No. 18 SUNY Geneseo on Saturday, Feb. 11, the latter of which is an undefeated 21-0.
Hawks head coach Jamie Seward says that the team plans to take little strides every day this week to prepare for this weekend’s games.
“SUNY Geneseo is 21-0. That doesn’t just happen by accident,” Seward said. “We need to take small steps both individually and collectively to progress our game, but I am pleased with the energy and enthusiasm this team shows when they come to work. We just have to remember to stay confident in our abilities.”
The games will take place in the Hawk Center with a 7:30 p.m. tip-off on Friday night, and a 4 p.m. start on Saturday afternoon.