On Feb. 23, 2019, the New Paltz women’s basketball team overcame a 13-point fourth quarter deficit in a come-from-behind overtime win over SUNY Geneseo, the previous season’s State University of New York Athletic Conference (SUNYAC) Champions.
Two players dominated for the Hawks in the win: fourth-year guard Rachel Simon and fourth-year guard Lindsay Bettke.
Overall, this team effort from New Paltz dominated a tough SUNY Geneseo, earning their fourth SUNYAC title in New Paltz women’s basketball history.
“I kept hearing, and I may have not believed it as much as I should have, but I just kept hearing Phil [Teape] say, ‘we’re winning this game,’” Hawks head coach Jamie Seward told the Athletic Communications Office last season. “I just kept hearing her say that after every timeout. Every time something negative happened, she just stayed on that. We’re going to get this done and it was a real positivity and true belief that she was voicing, but you know it was believed by every single one of them. It’s pretty remarkable.”
The game overall forced nine turnovers and New Paltz held the Geneseo Knights to their lowest shooting percentage from the field – 34%. However, Geneseo still managed to maintain a 10-point lead in the final period of the game, leading New Paltz 36-33.
The Knights pushed forward with a 13-point lead with only six minutes remaining in the game, but the Hawks weren’t done yet.
“We started to panic a little bit when they started to make a run and get up by that many points, but I just remember if the ball went out of bounds or something happened, we always just huddled in and we got ourselves back on track,” said last season’s fourth-year guard Lindsay Bettke said. “We looked each other in the eyes and locked in. ‘We’re going to make a play. This play right here, we’re going to make a stop’… We didn’t let past mistakes get to us, which was really key for us pushing through.”
Simon continued for the Hawks with four straight points and a final 3-pointer with 30 seconds left, leaving the box score 51-50. With eight seconds remaining and Simon on the free-throw line, she tied up the game after a free-throw from the Knights, leaving the score 52-52. Overtime was now a reality for the Hawks, and they couldn’t let this opportunity slip.
Bettke excelled for the Hawks after scoring eight of their 11 points of the period. She finished with 17 points, three rebounds and three assists. Bettke was named tournament MVP, while Simon was named to the SUNYAC All-Tournament team. Simon finished with a game-high 24 points, shot 7-17 and had three rebounds with one assist.
Bettke finished her reign at New Paltz as the first player in program history to be recognized as an All-American, a two-time first-team All-SUNYAC earner, a spot on the First-Team All-East Regional list and was named 2018-19 SUNYAC Women’s Basketball Player of the Year.
“Few words can accurately describe what it felt like to be named the first All-American in our program’s history, but it was such an honor,” Bettke said, who is now a part of the coaching staff this season. “I couldn’t have reached that accomplishment without my teammates, coaching staff, family, fans, or anyone really who helped me become a great player over the years.”
Simon finished out her senior season after being named consecutively for two First-Team All-SUNYAC titles, and last season was named on the Second-Team All-East Regional list.
“New Paltz women’s basketball is insane and the culture is unlike anything I’ve ever experienced before,” Simon said. “Thinking back on last year, it was instilled in each of us that every single practice was going to be intense. If we practice and play as if every game is the most important of our lives, then it simply becomes routine when we get to playoffs. Of course the tensions still rise and every little thing just becomes that much more in the postseason, but mistakes need to be minimal and focus needs to be maxed out.”
Although both Simon and Bettke will not be participating in the 2019-20 season, fourth-year Marion Dietz followed behind them with the third-most points on the 2018-19 season with 326 points. Behind Dietz, fourth-year Paige Niemeyer came in fourth with 188.
Both now seniors, Dietz is running the team this season with a high of 82 points in only the last four games. Dietz could earn almost double the amount of points she did last season. Without Simon and Bettke running the offense for the Hawks, Dietz must step up and help gain momentum this year. Niemeyer is behind her with 58 points so far on the season.
“My role on this team is different than my role on last year’s team,” Dietz said. “Without Lindsay the ball is in my hands a lot more than it has been in the past; my teammates trust me with the ball and honestly are the reason I’ve been able to score as much as I have this early.”
Can these two high-scoring seniors maintain the win for the Hawks in SUNYAC play in the new year? Only time will tell.
“Nothing else in the world mattered and I have never experienced an atmosphere that was not only extremely intense, but also so resilient,” Simon said. “The playoffs didn’t make us intense, the foundation and culture made us intense.”