The women’s basketball team finished their regular season on a high note, with wins at home against State University of New York Athletic Conference (SUNYAC) rivals SUNY Plattsburgh and SUNY Potsdam on Friday, Feb. 17 and Saturday, Feb. 18, respectively.
The Hawks finished their season with a 16-8 overall record, and a 13-5 record in conference play, as well as winning 11 of their last 12 games going into the SUNYAC Tournament in Geneseo this weekend.
On Feb. 17 in the Hawk Center, New Paltz edged out a 67-63 victory over Plattsburgh.
The game was neck and neck, with the Hawks having to play a game of catch-up for most of the first half, but still managed to go into intermission tied with Plattsburgh at 28 after a late 3-pointer from second-year guard Lindsay Bettke.
In the third quarter, Bettke added seven more points, with fourth-year co-captain Courtney Irby chipping in five more to make it a 48-45 game in favor of the Hawks going into the final frame.
The Hawks found themselves down by seven points with 3:52 to go in the game, but battled back and overtook Plattsburgh for the lead at 1:43 after a free throw by first-year forward Paige Niemayer made it a 62-61 game, a lead New Paltz wouldn’t relinquish.
Bettke, who was named the final SUNYAC Women’s Basketball Player of the Week for the 2016-17 season, attributes the team’s success to great communication.
“The chemistry between all of us has been great, and we are excited to see where we will go,” Bettke said. “The other teams are probably nervous, but we are ready.”
Bettke’s average of 22.5 points per game this past weekend helped the Hawks to the No. 2 seed and first-round bye in the SUNYAC tournament.
On Saturday, Feb. 18 in the Hawk Center for Senior Day, New Paltz squared off against SUNY Potsdam and enjoyed an 85-53 victory.
After ending the first quarter up 18-12, the Hawks broke away in the second, going into the half with a 43-26 lead, with a big quarter from Bettke, who registered 14 points, while Small picked up five points for the squad, and fourth-year guard Morgan Roessler chipped in four more.
The Hawks went up by 29 points in the third after second-year guard Taylor Howell hit a layup, making it a 63-34 game with 1:05 to go, followed by Niemayer sinking a jumper to go into the final quarter.
New Paltz wouldn’t let Potsdam close to them again, as first-year forward Brianna Alberga hit a layup with 2:00 to go to put the Hawks up by a game high 34 points and a lead that would carry the team to an eventual victory to finish off the regular campaign.
Small says the team is seeing success that they will look to translate into the tournament by leaving it all on the court both mentally and physically.
“We’ve come so far this season and this team is capable of so much,” Small said. “It’s like night and day how this team has improved throughout the season and I can’t wait to see how far we can take it.”
Small racked up 306 points this season, averaging 12.8 points per game while tallying 68 assists in her final year of her esteemed career as a Hawk, which saw her become the program’s all-time scoring leader for women after a 20 point game against SUNY Oneonta on Jan. 14.
Hawks head coach Jamie Seward says that Small, Roessler and Irby have stepped up to the plate and have finished strong, which will be important for tournament play.
“The seniors have really had such a positive influence on the freshmen, who after this season aren’t really freshmen anymore,” Seward said. “We need to focus on ourselves, not the record of our opponents. We need to just take it one day at a time and get through Friday.”
The Hawks will now travel to Geneseo to take on the No. 6 seed SUNY Brockport in the semifinals of the SUNYAC Tournament this Friday, Feb. 24 at 5:30 p.m.