In a Walsh Gym decorated in balloons, streamers and posters, the Seton Hall women’s basketball team defeated Providence,71-54, to complete its regular season Sunday night. The Pirates finish the season with a 22-7 record, 12-6 in Big East play, and tied for second place in the conference.
Before the action started on the night, seniors Tabatha Richardson-Smith, Tiffany Jones, Jordan Mosley, Aleesha Powell and Shakena Richardson took part in Senior Day festivities, entering center court accompanied by their loved ones, receiving framed jerseys, flowers and kind words from head coach Tony Bozzella.
After the tributes were made and the crowd showed appreciation with their applause, it was time to get to business. Richardson-Smith, Jones, Mosley, Powell and Richardson all got the starting nod.
It what would be their last game in Walsh Gym, the starting seniors wasted no time, going on a quick 7-0 run. Providence would answer with a 7-0 run of its own and eventually hold a five-point lead, but powered by 10 points from Powell, the Pirates finished the fast-paced first quarter with a 24-18 lead.
“It was exciting,” Powell said of her fast start. “I just wanted to be aggressive, and I think that set the tone and we were all aggressive.”
Their push continued in the second quarter, often attacking paint and drawing contact. The most exciting sequence came from an isolation bucket by Richardson, followed by a Richardson steal, and capped by a Richardson-Smith three on the following play.
With the crowd going wild, Seton Hall brought a 42-30 lead into halftime.
The third quarter was where the Pirates would put the seal on the deal. Thanks to tight defense, including back-to-back blocks by Luburdia Gordon, Seton Hall held the Friars to just five points, including a five-minute drought. The Pirates dropped 10 points in the paint and 18 in the quarter to hold a 60-35 lead with one quarter left to play.
With Seton Hall showing some fatigue, Providence started the fourth quarter on a 6-0 run. The Pirates would be outscored 19-11 in the quarter, but the team finished with a dominant 38-16 advantage in the paint that would be key in its final efforts and win.
With under two minutes left, Bozzella subbed out the seniors one last time at Walsh Gym with a loud response from the crowd.
“I’m just proud of the girls again,” Bozzella said after the game. “I know I keep saying it. I’m not their father, but I feel like I am in a certain way.”
In what was an emotional day and end of the regular season for the head coach, Bozzella is happy and looking toward the Big East and NCAA tournaments.
“We needed to get this win to finish tied for second, which was very important,” Bozzella said. “We secured the No. 3 seed in the Big East tournament, which is a good feat. We’ve put ourselves in position for an NCAA Tournament bid, with 22 wins and RPI in the 30 or less range.”
While the NCAA bid remains in question, Powell is not only set for the Big East tournament, but she is ready to get Seton Hall back to the Big East championship game.
“It gets better every day,” Powell said of the team’s chemistry. “Hopefully we reach our peak in the Big East championship game.”
With the bracket set, the No. 3-seeded Pirates will play their first game of the Big East tournament in Chicago, Ill., against No. 6 Marquette on Sunday, March 6 at 2:30 p.m. on FS2.
Elizabeth Swinton can be reached at Elizabeth.firstname.lastname@example.org or on Twitter @ESwint22.