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Pittman leads massive rally to keep Stony Brook women’s basketball atop the CAA

Power forward Sherese Pittman drives towards the rim against Elon on Sunday, Feb. 18. Pittman scored 22 points and spearheaded a comeback on Friday at Drexel. ANGELINA LIVIGNI/THE STATESMAN

After falling behind by 19 points halfway through the third quarter, the Stony Brook women’s basketball mustered up a comeback to eke out a win and maintain first place.

The Seawolves (22-3, 13-2 CAA) rallied to beat the Drexel Dragons (12-14, 7-8 CAA) in Philadelphia 60-58 on Friday night. Stony Brook had a disastrous first half, shooting just 33.3% from the field while turning the ball over 19 times, but a 15-point fourth-quarter by power forward Sherese Pittman dragged it to victory.

Pittman’s crowning moment of the night came during the final 90 seconds. During the final minute and a half, she stole the ball twice and knocked down a pair of layups within 30 seconds to give the Seawolves a one-point lead with 57 seconds left. Her two buckets in the small window capped off a stretch where she scored each of Stony Brook’s last eight points and 13 of its last 20.

After Pittman picked up her second steal of the stretch, point guard Gigi Gonzalez missed a layup that Drexel center Jasmine Valentine corralled. Small forward Kelis Corley fouled Valentine immediately and sent her to the free-throw line, where she drained both shots to give the Dragons a 58-57 lead with 28 seconds remaining.

After falling behind, head coach Ashley Langford called a timeout to advance the ball up the court. With just over 25 seconds remaining, power forward Shamarla King inbounded the ball to center Khari Clark, who tried to spin around Valentine in the paint and drew a reach-in foul. Clark sank both free throws to put the Seawolves up for good, as Drexel shooting guard Amaris Baker tripped and fell on the ensuing possession and was called for a travel to turn it over.

After the inbound, King was intentionally fouled with 7.5 seconds left. She made one of her two foul shots, giving the Dragons a shot at glory. However, King rejected Baker’s potential game-winning three-point try from the left wing and Clark secured the rebound to complete the comeback.

Langford was pleased with the way her team performed in crunch time.

“I’m really proud of our effort in the second half,” Langford said in a postgame interview with Stony Brook Athletics. “We kept fighting and executed offensively down the stretch.”

The final quarter and a half was nothing like the first two and change. After a quiet first four minutes of the game, a three by Drexel small forward Brooke Mullin sparked a 13-3 run that Baker spearheaded with six points on a trio of layups.

Neither team played well on offense in the second quarter, but the Dragons still managed to enter halftime up by 10 points after scoring seven unanswered towards the end of the period. Seven different Seawolves combined to commit 10 turnovers in the quarter, directly leading to seven points for Drexel.

Coming out of halftime, the story looked much the same for Stony Brook. A layup by Pittman started the third-quarter scoring, but Baker answered right back with nine consecutive points from all three levels. After Baker’s scoring streak ended, power forward Chloe Hodges capped the Dragons’ 11-0 scoring run with a mid-range jump shot from the baseline to give them a 40-21 lead.

Following Hodges’ bucket, a second-chance three-pointer from shooting guard Victoria Keenan with 3:53 left in the third quarter was the only scoring over the next three and a half minutes. Two minutes after Keenan’s triple, a three-point play off a turnaround, mid-range jumper by King swung the pendulum.

It only continued from there, as Keenan stripped Drexel shooting guard Erin Sweeney and took it coast to coast before drawing a foul and hitting a pair of free throws. Less than a minute later, Keenan drilled a three-pointer to shave the Seawolves’ deficit down to eight. Fittingly, Pittman finished off the quarter by blocking Hodges on the defensive end and coming back down the court with a buzzer-beating triple to cap off a 16-2 run.

The scoring spree extended into the fourth quarter, where King made a three-pointer on the opening possession to make it a two-point game. After that, the game became a back-and-forth affair, with Stony Brook riding Pittman, who got inside the Dragons’ interior defense with ease and finished around the rim at will. Eventually, Pittman’s dominance became too much for Drexel to handle, opening the door for the Seawolves to complete the comeback.

Pittman scored 20 of her 22 points in the second half alone and finished the night shooting 9-for-18 from the field, 1-for-2 from deep and 3-for-4 from the charity stripe. She coupled her late-game heroics with a season-high four blocks and three steals. Pittman also led the team with eight rebounds.

Keenan and King were key off the bench, as the entire starting lineup aside from Pittman struggled. Keenan scored 11 points on 3-of-5 shooting, all of which was from deep. King poured in 10 points on 3-of-7 shooting and went 2-for-6 from three-point range. She also blocked two shots and recorded a steal.

Shooting guard Zaida Gonzalez was respectable, scoring seven points on 3-of-7 shooting while also hauling in five rebounds. As for Gigi Gonzalez, she led the team with six assists but scored just six points while shooting 1-for-8. Clark scored only four points on 1-of-4 shooting, as she played only 14 minutes due to being in foul trouble early in the third quarter.

Stony Brook will be right back in action on Sunday for its biggest challenge of the season: the North Carolina A&T (N.C. A&T) Aggies. The Aggies are in second place in the Coastal Athletic Association (CAA) and sit just one game back of the Seawolves for the top seed in the playoffs. After beating Northeastern 69-55 on Friday, N.C. A&T is now 18-9 this year and 12-4 in CAA play. Opening tip-off is scheduled for 2 p.m. at Island Federal Arena.

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