Women’s basketball heads to NCAA Tournament after SUNYAC victory

The Geneseo women’s basketball team took home the SUNYAC Title after defeating the SUNY New Paltz Hawks Friday Feb. 23 63-57 in the first round of the tournament and winning against the SUNY Oneonta Red Dragons 58-53 in the finals in front of an energetic Geneseo crowd on Saturday Feb. 24. 

The final score shows a five-point victory and yet another SUNYAC Championship for the Knights; however, stats and headlines can be deceiving. Upon entering the fourth quarter, the Knights and Red Dragons were tied at 41 apiece. 

As a matter of fact, Geneseo only led by three points with 15 seconds left in the fourth quarter with an Oneonta possession. After the Red Dragons missed a three pointer, junior forward McKenna Brooks secured a rebound, but was then thrown to the ground by an Oneonta player. The foul resulted in two free throw opportunities for the Knights, which secured the 2018 title. 

“We were pretty beat up after Friday night,” head coach Scott Hemer said. “They hung on to get out of there with a win and were able to turn around the next day and put together just enough remaining energy to claw out a championship.”

The Knights ended up with a perfect 18-0 conference record and only lost two games outside of conference play. The results, however, don’t quite match the anticipation for the season. After losing a few key players from last year, there was certainly some uncertainty in the air about the performance of this year’s team. 

“We were all quite impressed with how quickly they gelled as a team … the fact that this group was able to put together a perfect regular season and get through the playoffs speaks volumes to their maturity,” Hemer said. 

Geneseo wasn’t the only team in the division that had to face the circumstances surrounding losing star senior players. New Paltz also had to recover from losing a good portion of their team to graduation after winning the 2017 SUNYACs. The Knights handled the situation very well, causing them to earn another title.

“We had some first-year players who came in and demonstrated some poise beyond their year on the floor, which was certainly a key contributor to our success,” Hemer said. “I think you also had some sophomores who had limited roles last year who really stepped up and made some giant strides this year.” 

Hemer went on to praise players such as Brooks for stepping into leadership roles and described how important chemistry was to the team’s success. Throughout the season, it was very apparent that the team’s relationship was a priority. Every victory seemed to be due in part to this factor. 

As a result of winning the SUNYAC, the Knights have automatically received an invitation to the NCAA Division III Women’s Basketball Tournament on Friday March 2. The Knights will head to Boston for the tournament, where they will take on the Ithaca College Bombers in the first round. The Bombers, who are members of the Liberty League, went 20-7 on the season and lost their championship game to the Rochester Institute of Technology Tigers. 

If the Knights beat Ithaca College, they will move on to play either Tufts University or Westfield State College, both Massachusetts based teams. The women intend to use their success and impressive team chemistry to become NCAA Champions