By Michael Otero
On Wednesday, Feb. 26, the Lady Pioneers (21-5) took the court against the Molloy Lions (14-13) at the Pratt Recreation Center. The thrilling contest needed an overtime period in order to decide the winner. LIU came out victorious, pulling out the 64-57 win.
The first half was a tightly contested battle, with both teams giving it all they had. The back and forth battle featured four ties, with neither team leading the other by more than seven. It seemed that the Lions gained some momentum
with just under seven minutes remaining in the half when sophomore forward Ally Leftridge made a lay-up to give the Lions an 18-17 lead. That lead was pushed to seven with a little over three minutes until the half. The Pioneers cut the deficit to two by halftime with key baskets from junior guard Chelsea Williams.
Williams was the high scorer in the first half with 14 points, while the Lions were led by junior forward Megan Lonergan. The Pioneers were held to just 28 percent shooting from the field in the first half, but they made up for it by getting to the line 10 times. Both teams were uneasy with the ball as they combined for 16 turnovers, eight for each squad.
The Lions controlled the early part of the second half, as they added to their two point lead with a few baskets,
elevating it to seven points. The Pioneers, needing a jolt of energy, responded with a 16-1 run led by sophomore center
Nyasia Davis, who scored six points during that span. The lead expanded to eight, but a Lions’ response tied the game
with over six minutes left. With under a minute remaining, the Pioneers led by one and missed free throws proved
pivotal. The Pioneers missed three down the stretch and a basket by the Lions tied the game at 50. A game winning shot attempt by senior guard Kiki Sears did not go, and an extra period was needed.
In the overtime, the trio of Williams, Sears, and senior guard Alexis Peters combined for all 14 points. The Pioneers never trailed in the overtime, and their defense was suffocating, forcing the Lions to shoot 14 percent from the field. For the game, Williams finished with 24 points and 10 rebounds, while Peters accumulated 15 points, 11 boards, and five assists.
Not to be outdone, senior forward Shayna Gatling grabbed 10 rebounds and scored 13 points. The Pioneers had their first overtime game and their first game in which three players finished with double-doubles.
The Lady Pioneers returned to action on Saturday, March 1, when they wrapped up their regular season in Flushing N.Y. as they hit the hardwood against the Queens College Knights (19-7). In their previous meeting in January, the Green and Gold won by a score of 74-64.
The Pioneers already clinched the number one seed and home court in the ECC tournament, so this was just a warm up game for the Lady Pioneers, as they had nothing to lose. The Pioneers earned their 14th double digit victory of the season, showing how dominant they are. The Pioneers were led in scoring by Williams, who poured in 21, while Peters, Sears, Gatling all scored in double figures as well. The Pioneers were able to get off 16 more shots than the Knights.
The Pioneer defense was stellar as usual, as they forced 31 turnovers and turned them into 28 points. The 84-63 final was the cherry on top of a terrific Lady Pioneer regular season.
For the season, the Pioneers outscored their opponents by an average of 10 points. Their superior scoring translated to their statistics from the field and three point line, as well as they shot a higher percentage there then their opponents on average. In almost every category, the Pioneers beat their opponents, explaining their outstanding record. Williams was the average leading scorer, posting 19.2 points a game, and she was also second in the ECC in scoring. Peters averaged 13.4 points and 5 assists, while senior forward Dominique Pagan was the team’s leading shot blocker with over a block a game. Gatling was number one in the ECC in field goal percentage, as she shot over 60 percent for the season.
The Lady Pioneers earned the number one seed, a first round bye, and home court advantage in the ECC Tournament, and will await the winner of the game featuring Molloy and NYIT. The team posted a 3-1 record against the two squads this season. The Lady Pioneers will play their next game on Thursday, March 6, at the Pratt Recreation Center.