In a weekend filled with intriguing storylines, the Geneseo women's basketball team accomplished exactly what they wanted by winning their last two regular season matches and earning themselves a coveted home game in the playoffs.
On Tuesday night, they achieved yet another goal by winning their first game of the playoffs, dismantling fifth-seeded Oswego, 65-39. Now that victory has the Knights staring the top-seeded Cortland Red Dragons in the teeth, one win away from the SUNYAC tournament championship game.
The road to SUNY Cortland has not been an easy one. Just last week the Knights had lost four of their last five games, including an unexpected home loss to SUNY Brockport.
So, needing to win out, the Knights hit the road, traveling up north for a final two-game stretch against SUNY Plattsburgh and SUNY Potsdam. Games in which they poured their heart, sweat and blood onto the court - literally. In their first game against Plattsburgh, junior Khadija Campbell and freshman Melissa Graham collided while diving for a loose ball, leaving them both bloodied and out of the game for good.
"That was difficult for us," said head coach Scott Hemer. "It takes a lot out of a team when you lose two key players like that but we were able to maintain our composure and I thought the ladies did a really nice job of handling the situation."
Junior Alyssa Polosky had a stellar performance nabbing a double-double with 14 rebounds and a career-high 22 points, including a three-point dagger that iced Plattsburgh with less than a minute left. Sophomores Katelyn Charbonneau and Bri Dunton added 12 and 10 points respectively as the Knights won 72-69.
Campbell and Graham did return to the team and, despite the 12 stitches they had between them, were determined to play against Potsdam the next day.
"Both of them not only were able to play but were so adamant about wanting to play," Hemer said. "That just speaks volumes about the character of the student-athletes that we currently have in our program."
On Saturday, Potsdam was able to keep the game close but thanks to a career-high 22 points and six steals off the bench by junior Brittany Finkle, the Knights surged in the second half to win, 60-50.
"I live by the saying 'actions speak louder than words,' and a lot of times this year we talked the talk but did not walk the walk," said Campbell, who fell just short of double-double with 11 points and nine rebounds. "But in that second half I think we proved to ourselves that we are a very good squad and we better start acting more like it."
With those two hard-fought victories the Knights ended their regular season and turned back home to face the Lakers, who they had already beaten twice in the regular season. For Oswego, the third time was not a charm as Geneseo defeated them, never once relinquishing the lead and winning by 26 points.
Finkle led a balanced attack with 11 points and five rebounds and Polosky was right behind her with 10 points and seven rebounds. Campbell, Charbonneau and Dunton added nine points apiece as the Knights cruised into the next round.
"All year somebody has found a way to step up at critical times and it's not always one person but a culmination of people and I think that's the special part about where we are and how far we've come this year," Hemer said of the team's performance over the past week. Geneseo finished the regular season 11-7 in SUNYAC play and 15-10, however, the regular season is already far behind them as they pack up and head to Cortland for a second-round showdown with the Red Dragons on Friday at 8 p.m. If the Knights are successful they will play for their first SUNYAC championship since 1996 on Saturday night.
"I'm not sure if there's any particular moment that I've enjoyed the most," Hemer said of the 2009-10 season. "I've really enjoyed the journey with this group. I'm just hoping that we'll look back and our fondest memory will be cutting down the nets in Cortland next Saturday."