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The Statesman

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Stony Brook women’s basketball comes from behind to wrap up historic regular season

Point guard Gigi Gonzalez shoots a three-pointer against North Carolina A&T on Sunday, March 3. Gonzalez secured the conference’s regular-season scoring title on Saturday in a win over William & Mary. CHRISTOPHER YANG/THE STATESMAN

After going down by 13 points late in the third quarter, the Stony Brook women’s basketball team surged all the way back to enter the postseason riding a seven-game winning streak.

The Seawolves (25-3, 16-2 CAA) finished off the regular season strongly on Saturday with a 74-68 victory against the William & Mary Tribe (15-13, 12-6 CAA) in Virginia. Point guard Gigi Gonzalez’s late-game heroics not only helped Stony Brook come back and win it, but they also kept her atop the Coastal Athletic Association’s (CAA) scoring leaderboard.

The Seawolves struggled in the first half, shooting just 29.0% from the field and 18.2% from three-point territory, leading to them entering halftime trailing 34-27. They opened the third quarter with an 8-3 stretch, capped off by a crafty finish from Gonzalez in the paint to trim their deficit down to just two points.

However, William & Mary point guard Bella Nascimento sparked a 14-3 run by canning back-to-back threes to grow her team’s lead to 13. During the run, Nascimento connected on all three of her triples to hand Stony Brook its largest deficit of the game with 3:22 left in the frame.

Towards the end of the third period, shooting guard Victoria Keenan got things going for the Seawolves, as she bookended a 10-0 run with a pair of three-pointers to get within one possession. The momentum carried into the fourth quarter, where Gonzalez tied the game right away with a pull-up, mid-range jump shot and a fast-break layup off a steal. Now with the game leveled, both sides exchanged buckets back and forth until there was just six minutes left, when Keenan inspired another streak of 10 unanswered points with a layup.

After Keenan’s basket, power forward Sherese Pittman finished at the rim twice before nailing a mid-range jumper to cap off the scoring streak and put Stony Brook up 68-60 with just 1:45 left.

The Tribe snapped their five-minute scoring drought with just 1:36 remaining when small forward Rebekah Frisby-Smith completed a three-point play to cut the Seawolves’ lead to five. Just mere seconds later, Frisby-Smith stripped Gonzalez, who wisely fouled her to prevent a fast-break score and force an inbound pass. After the inbound, Keenan deflected the ball out of bounds to force another reset.

Now with an opportunity to make it a one-possession game inside of 90 seconds, William & Mary small forward Alexa Mikeska forced a pass that Gonzalez tipped away and picked off. Gonzalez never let the Tribe’s opportunity come to fruition, as she took it the distance and laid it in off the fast break to go up by seven points with just 1:11 remaining.

William & Mary took too long to get its next bucket, forcing it to intentionally foul Pittman and Gonzalez, who combined to knock down four free throws and ice the game.

Stony Brook outscored the Tribe 47-34 after halftime on 60.7% shooting, much to the delight of head coach Ashley Langford.

“I’m very pleased with our second-half effort today,” Langford said in a postgame interview with Stony Brook Athletics. “I thought we overcame adversity and executed offensively and defensively at the end of the game.”

Gonzalez put the final stake in her claim for 2023-24 Coastal Athletic Association (CAA) Player of the Year by scoring 22 points while shooting 6-for-13 from the field and 10-for-12 from the free-throw line. She also grabbed eight rebounds and a season-high-tying four steals.

Pittman — the reigning CAA Player of the Week — racked up her third double-double of the year and her second in a row. She poured in 21 points while shooting 7-for-15 from the field, 1-for-2 from deep and 6-for-8 from the charity stripe. Her 14 rebounds tied a season-best total and her three assists co-led the team alongside power forward Shamarla King. Pittman also blocked two shots and recorded one steal.

Center Khari Clark had a quietly good day, scoring 12 points on 6-of-7 shooting while picking up two steals. Off the bench, Keenan scored eight points on just 3-of-11 shooting, but she collected four rebounds and three steals. King also scored eight points on 3-of-8 shooting while also hauling in seven rebounds and adding a takeaway of her own.

The Seawolves finished with 14 total steals on the day and forced 19 turnovers overall. They cashed in on their opportunities, scoring 22 points off turnovers.

Though William & Mary’s offense struggled to the tune of a .388/.259/.750 shooting line, power forward Nylah Young had a big day with 23 points on 10-of-17 shooting. Nascimento led her team with 24 points while shooting 10-for-21 from the field and 4-for-12 from three-point range.

As the top seed in the 2024 CAA women’s basketball tournament, Stony Brook will receive a double-bye before returning to action next Friday in the quarterfinals. The Seawolves will take on the winner of Thursday’s game between the eighth-seeded Campbell Camels and the ninth-seeded Elon Phoenix. The Camels are 16-13 overall and 9-9 in CAA play this year, while the Phoenix are 11-20 in total and 7-11 in conference games. Opening tip-off for Friday’s quarterfinal matchup is set for noon at the Entertainment & Sports Arena in Washington, D.C.

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