The women’s basketball team traveled to New York to face the Columbia Lions in the WNIT Elite Eight, the farthest they have gone in any tournament in program history. Despite being on the road, Lauren Park-Lane and company powered through Levien Gymnasium to seal their first Final Four appearance, 78-75.
Head coach Anthony Bozzella rolled with his now-expected starting five of Lauren Park-Lane, Andra Espinoza-Hunter, Mya Jackson, Mya Bembry, and Sidney Cooks. 6 early points from Mya Jackson on 3-for-3 shooting put the Pirates ahead 13-11 halfway through the first quarter. The frame remained close throughout, and Columbia’s Jaida Patrick tied the game at 21 with 33 seconds left to play. Seton Hall was outrebounded and did not move the ball as well as Columbia, though were shooting better. Park-Lane led the way in the first quarter with 8 points.
Columbia opened the second quarter with a triple, though back-to-back scores from Cooks and Espinoza-Hunter helped the Pirates regain the lead, 25-24. Sidney Cooks showed off her playmaking abilities with 3 early assists after she found Bembry cutting. Later in the quarter, Espinoza-Hunter broke double digits with a pull-up jumper at the free throw line that extended The Hall’s lead to three again. Park-Lane would tack on four more to the lead with a layup and two from the stripe. Seton Hall held a 4-point lead, 39-35, headed into the break.
Seton Hall held the Lions to just 33% shooting in the first half, but the team could not connect on their threes. They also allowed 9 offensive rebounds. Park-Lane dropped 14 points in the first half followed by 11 points, 4 rebounds, and 2 assists from Espinoza-Hunter. Jackson had 6 points and Cooks added 6 points, 3 assists, and 3 rebounds.
Down 6 early in the half, Columbia crawled back to take the lead at the 6:52 mark in the third quarter. They led by as much as 5 points until a pair of free throws from Park-Lane, Cooks, and Amari Wright put the lead back in Seton Hall’s hands. The Pirates ended the quarter with an 11-0 run to put them up by 6, 56-50.
Kitty Henderson knocked down back-to-back shots from behind-the-arc for the Lions to bring her total to 14 points on the night and tie the game. Both sides traded buckets in a nail-biter fourth quarter. With 35 seconds remaining, Columbia’s Henderson put in a layup that gave Columbia a one-point lead. Pairs of free throws from Park-Lane and Wright would allow the team to retake the lead and steal a win on the road to advance.
Lauren Park-Lane had a monster game once again with another 20-point performance and her second-straight 29-point game on 14-of-14 from the stripe. She added 5 assists, 4 rebounds, and 2 steals in the win. Espinoza-Hunter and Cooks dropped 16 points and 5 rebounds each. Mya Jackson had 9 points on 4-for-4 from the field, and Bembry bulled down 11 boards to continue her dominance on the glass.
Seton Hall will advance to the WNIT Final Four, continuing their phenomenal season, and face Middle Tennessee on the road in Murfreesboro, Tennessee. Tip-off is set for Thursday, March 31st at 6:30 PM.