Kaela Hilaire has been a play-maker in her first year of collegiate basketball. Her most recent accolade occurred Sunday, Jan. 29 against Butler.
Just a week prior, the freshman point guard attempted a game-winning shot against Creighton only to have the ball rim out and send the game into overtime. The Pirates would be bested by the Bluejays.
With another opportunity to seal the deal against Butler, Hilaire found her touch when she canned a contested floater that proved to be the game-winning shot and improved Seton Hall to 2-0 for that week.
“It feels good to do that,” Hilaire said. “I picked up for my miss against Creighton, so I’m happy I made [the team] happy, and we got the win.”
Head coach Tony Bozzella noted the confidence Hilaire had on her shot despite the missed attempt a week prior.
“You know she missed a layup against Creighton that could have helped us win, but it’s never about one shot or not,” Bozzella said after the win. “I was glad she made the shot tonight. She shot it with confidence.”
Bozzella’s initial plan going into that final shot did not feature the ball in Hilaire’s hands and instead was intended to be a drive by LaTecia Smith, who would find her shot or find an open teammate to kick out too.
When things took an unexpected turn, Bozzella saw an opportunity to mix things up and throw off the Butler defense in favor of trusting Hilaire with the final possession.
“They fouled, which was a very smart play – which we thought they might. So then we knew we were going to switch it up then have KK come off (the screen), which would mix them up a bit,” Bozzella explained. “KK made a great read and took a tough shot and made it.”
Hilare used her quickness and tight handle to create space for herself, and as she found a lane to the basket, she was met with some pressure and a contesting of her shot.
“At the end of the game…I was just focused on putting it off the backboard,” Hilaire said following the victory over Butler. “I knew it was going in once I hit it right at the top corner.”
Beyond just receiving the opportunity to take the shot, Bozzella explained that Hilaire worked tirelessly to prepare herself for shots like these in practice throughout the week.
“It stems from her having a really good week in practice, working hard on making her layup,” Bozzella said of Hilaire’s triumphant shot.
“It’s hard – you’re a freshman, it’s a tough level, but to make the winning shot is important,” Bozzella said of Hilaire’s situation in being trusted in clutch moments in games.
Not only are her talents being recognized by Bozzella, but the Big East conference as well, which recently bestowed the honor of Freshman of the Week to Hilaire for the second time this season.
With averages of 10.4 points per game, 4.3 assists, 1.8 boards and 1.8 steals, Hilaire continues her campaign to be one of the best rookies in the Big East conference.
Kyle Kasharian can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or on Twitter @ItsKyleKash.