Sunday afternoon, Seton Hall women’s basketball was fittingly tested, and passed, earning an 89-81 victory over Garden State opponent Rider in Walsh Gymnasium.
The game was high octane from the opening whistle, with Rider holding the lead for the six minutes before Seton Hall worked its way back and took the lead with a layup in transition from Kaela Hilaire. Rider had the quick response with a three-pointer from Tracey Goodman, but the Hall answered right back with a three-pointer of its own to take the one-point advantage at 21-20.
Rider came in to the second quarter down two but quickly tied the score, setting the tone for a back-and-forth first five minutes of the second. Twice the lead was tied, but twice the Pirates were able to regain it shortly after, eventually separating from the Broncs to the tune of an eleven-point lead at the half.
A big part of the Pirates second-quarter run was Claire Lundberg, who made four three pointers, and recorded a steal in a five-minute span to close out the half.
“Just getting in a flow like that is a really good feeling,” Lundberg said on the run. “I can trust my teammates to get me the ball and then I won’t miss.”
The third quarter began with a familiar inefficiency for the Pirates, and combined with a Rider team that had come into the game winning four straight road games, resulted in an eleven-point lead being erased in the span of nine minutes coming out of the half.
Coach Tony Bozzella was transparent about his disappointment in the way the Pirates have not only today, but on the season, underperformed coming out of the halftime break.
“We are struggling in that third quarter,” Bozzella said. “We’ve talked about, we’ve tried every single thing. I think I’m just going to go in there and have father say a prayer again because I don’t want to take anything away from Rider, but clearly this has been a trend”.
The trend continued, but not to the demise of the Pirates. The lead was lost, but the Pirates would capture it right back thanks to two free throws from JaQuan Jackson. A minute later, Rider would take the lead again, only to have Skyler Snider draw a foul and convert two from the line to tie the game at 62 heading into the fourth.
In the fourth quarter, it was Seton Hall who took the initiative, although every time the Pirates wished to pull away, the Broncs had the timely response. Jordan Molyneaux probably thought she had given the Pirates the lead for good when she converted from the free throw line, captured a steal, and helped finish on the subsequent layup in transition. Rider had other ideas, using a fourth-quarter run of their own to tie the score at 71.
The Pirates would be tested, but they would handle every adversity. LaTecia Smith helped the Pirates retake the lead with a layup to make it 73-71, and Kaela Hilaire used free throws to continuously help the Pirates, slowly but surely, separate themselves from a resilient Rider team.
The Pirates would seal their seventh victory of the season with tremendous free throw shooting, going 19 of 22 from the line in the fourth quarter to cruise into the final whistle with an 89-81 score-line. It was a mixed bag for Bozzella who saw positive and negative takeaways from a back and forth affair.
“We are still not close [to finding an identity], but it’s hard to find an identity in eleven games with so many kids in and out of the lineup; little by little,” Bozzella said.
The Pirates will be off through Christmas weekend, but will be back in Walsh Gymnasium on Dec. 30 to commence Big East play against local rivals Saint John’s.
James Justice can be reached at email@example.com or on Twitter @JamesJusticeIII.