The Women’s basketball team was eliminated from the playoffs in a 57-48 loss to SUNY Cortland on Friday, Feb. 27.
The Hawks, who reached the SUNYAC Tournament semifinals after a 79-58 win over Buffalo State in the quarterfinal round, end their season at 18-9 overall with the loss after holding a 6-19 record in 2013-14.
With a 27-23 Hawks lead at halftime, Cortland had a 54.2 shooting percentage from the floor in the second half. The Red Dragons finished the game with a 45-33 advantage over the Hawks in rebounding.
The Hawks entered the SUNYAC Tournament as the No. 3 seed, as they faced Buffalo State, the sixth seed, and Cortland, the second seed. The SUNYAC Semifinal and Final round were held at host and champion SUNY Geneseo’s court.
Head Coach Jamie Seward said the Hawks did not play their best game in the loss to Cortland.
“Sometimes basketball comes down to who makes shots, and unfortunately our shots didn’t go,” Seward said. “In spite of that, we put ourselves in a position to win and led most of the game. But they went on a run in the second half and we just weren’t able to respond to it, and that was what it came down to.”
Three Hawks were awarded accolades at the season’s end. Second-year guard/forward Kit Small and fourth-year co-Captain Shannan Walker earned SUNYAC All-Conference honors. Small was named to the Second Team and Walker was named to the Third Team. Small led the Hawks in scoring this season, averaging 12 points per game. She finished in double-digit points in 15 of the 16 final games.
Walker, meanwhile, wrapped up her collegiate career tied for second on the team in scoring, averaging 8.1 points per game. She converted a team-high 57 three-pointers, shooting 33.5 percent from long distance. Walker ranked fourth in the SUNYAC in both three-point field goal percentage (33.5 percent) and three-pointers made per game (2.1). For her career, Walker notched 132 three-pointers and dished out 188 assists, tied for eighth-most in program history.
Second-year forward Courtney Irby was named to the SUNYAC All-Tournament team. During the quarterfinal win against Buffalo State, she scored a game-high 18 points and grabbed seven rebounds. Irby averaged 8.4 points and 7.5 rebounds per game this season.
Seward said the elimination in the semifinals was disappointing because he wanted to keep the group together as long as possible.
“It’s truly been a pleasure to coach this team, so it was certainly disappointing that we weren’t able to advance,” Seward said. “They have come to play hard every day and they get along really well. It was such an enjoyable year just because the team was so fun to be around.”
Three Hawks will not be returning next season: fourth-year co-Captains Ashley Riefenhauser and Walker and third-year co-Captain Christine Rivera.
Walker said next season’s team is going to try and stay focused and get back to the point where they left off this season. One of the primary goals is to keep the team atmosphere because it really helps build the chemistry they have on the court, she said.
“We really had a lot of good things going for us,” Walker said. “We really came together as a team this season because everyone wanted what was best for the team, not what was best for themselves.”
On their home court, the Hawks went 11-1 this season, another turnaround from their 2-9 home record last season.
For next season, Seward said he is thinking about what the team has to go through just to get back to the position they were in. The Hawks are trying to think about what they need to do moving forward because they want to get started on it right away, Seward said.
“We’re excited about the future and the foundation that this group laid,” Seward said. “The seniors are going to be truly missed, but they did a great job of establishing what New Paltz basketball is about. Anything that we’re able to build on from moving forward is going to certainly be a tribute to them.”