Pirates win SHU Thanksgiving Classic

Seton Hall regrouped this weekend after a heartbreaking loss last Friday night to Princeton,  winning the 2017 SHU Thanksgiving Classic after defeating Jacksonville State by a score of 73-54 on Sunday. The Pirates were led by Taylor Brown, Jaquan Jackson and Shadeen Samuels who scored a combined 55 points on the day to carry the offense.

Things did not start smoothly though, as just seconds into the game, Pirates forward Donnaizha Fountain took a hard hit under the basket and needed to come out.  She came back into the game later on, but appeared banged up and played limited minutes.

Photo via SHU Athletics

Sophomore guard Kaela Hilaire was forced into the game after the injury and stepped up to play 27 minutes, second only to Brown. While Hilaire only scored eight points, her impact was most seen in the offense she created for her teammates, as she registered seven assists on the day.

“Whenever I come into the game, I try to keep us going,” Hilaire said. “I don’t want the momentum to change, if anything [I want to] pick it up and help the starters get a bigger lead.”

Pirates head coach Tony Bozzella was delighted by Hilaire’s play and ability to step up when her team needed her.

“I’ve been particularly impressed this whole week by Kaela,” Bozzella said. “She’s really trying to get everyone involved and play together and I’m proud of her for that. We need her to be really successful.”

In Fountain’s absence, the Pirates at first struggled to find a rhythm on the offensive end. Jacksonville State was able to get several clean looks but struggled shooting, as the game stayed close in the first quarter. That same trend continued into the second quarter, as the Pirates only led by four at the half, and were not taking quality shots.

In the locker-room, Bozzella made defensive adjustments that paid off early in the second half with an 8-0 run that stretched the Pirates’ lead to over ten.  After that, the Hall never looked back and outscored Jacksonville State 28-13 in the quarter to take control of the game.

The difference maker in that stretch was JaQuan Jackson, who scored 15 points in the second half and made two big three-pointers to seal the game.

“It’s nice to see JaQuan break out,” Bozzella said. “She’s a hard-worker, she’s a senior, and she played with toughness and energy that was important to us.”

After the game, Brown and Hilaire were named to the All-Tournament team, while Jackson was named tournament MVP after scoring 37 points in the two games.

The Pirates will resume play on Thursday, Nov. 30 when Marist comes to South Orange for a 7 p.m. game. And although the Red Foxes are only 1-3, Bozzella’s squad will not overlook the challenge and aim to continue the defensive intensity they displayed in the second half of both wins this weekend.

Andrew Lombardo can be reached andrew.lombardo@student.shu.edu or on Twitter @lombardoandrew.