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The Statesman

The Student News Site of Stony Brook University

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Stony Brook women’s basketball trumps Campbell, advances to CAA semifinals

Shooting guard Victoria Keenan hits an and-one shot against Campbell on Friday, March 15. Keenan scored nine points and hauled in six rebounds in the Stony Brook women’s basketball team’s playoff win. ANGELINA LIVIGNI/THE STATESMAN

A balanced offensive attack and a fast start powered the top-seeded Stony Brook women’s basketball team to a victory in the quarterfinals of the 2024 Coastal Athletic Association (CAA) tournament.

The Seawolves (26-3, 17-2 CAA) sent the eighth-seeded Campbell Camels (17-14, 9-10 CAA) home on Friday afternoon at the Entertainment & Sports Arena in Washington, D.C. With only one double-digit scorer in point guard Gigi Gonzalez, it was an all-hands-on-deck effort by Stony Brook, who had eight different scorers push it to a 61-52 win. The team will now face the fourth-seeded North Carolina A&T (N.C. A&T) Aggies in the semifinals on Saturday at 2 p.m.

Head coach Ashley Langford — the 2023-24 CAA Coach of the Year — credited the win to the Seawolves’ swarming defense that held their opponent to just a .339/.241/.538 shooting line.

“It was a collective group effort, I thought we executed the game plan well defensively,” Langford said in a postgame press conference. “We were able to fly around to shooters and make Campbell players do things they didn’t want to do.”

Stony Brook came out hot on offense, with Gigi Gonzalez and shooting guard Zaida Gonzalez alongside power forward Sherese Pittman all scoring in the paint on the first three possessions. After cooling off for the next three minutes, center Khari Clark knocked down a three-pointer in transition off a steal and dish from point guard Janay Brantley. Clark’s three sparked a 14-5 run that Gigi Gonzalez finished with a tough layup to go up by 12 points.

Campbell small forward Brittany Staves broke the Seawolves’ run when she hit a layup with just three seconds left in the opening period. Staves’ bucket carried some momentum into the second quarter, as the Camels cut their deficit to five in just a minute with a three-pointer by shooting guard Shy Tuelle and a fast-break layup from power forward Svenia Nürenberg.

That was the closest Campbell got for the rest of the game, as Stony Brook scored nine consecutive points to start a 16-5 stretch that spanned over the rest of the first half. Shooting guard Victoria Keenan fueled the run and gave her team the energy play it needed with a circus fast-break layup through a foul. The Seawolves’ half-court press defense shut down the Camels’ offense, as it held them to just 26.7% shooting from the floor and opened the door for the run.

With just over 25 seconds remaining in the second quarter, Pittman put back a third-chance layup to extend her team’s lead to 36-20 entering halftime.

The third quarter saw another struggle for both teams to get it going, as only 10 combined points were scored through the first nine minutes. With 45 seconds left in the period, Campbell shooting guard Audrey Fuller buried a corner three-pointer to shrink Stony Brook’s lead down to 12. During the final 30 seconds of the frame, Brantley took matters into her own hands by draining a high-arcing floater and a deep, buzzer-beating three to put her squad up 46-29 heading into the fourth.

The Seawolves had to weather one last storm during the final three minutes to close the game out. Tuelle put the team on her back by making two throws before drilling a tough, fadeaway jump shot to cut Stony Brook’s lead to eight points. With the game in the balance, Keenan sank a much-needed triple from the left corner at the 1:43 mark off a kick-out from Gigi Gonzalez.

The Camels hung around with a pair of free throws by point guard Gemma Núñez with just 1:28 left, but then they went into a 68-second scoring drought while still trailing by nine points. However, Gigi Gonzalez committed a turnover and missed a pair of foul shots during that stretch, allowing Campbell to get back into it with a corner three with only 20 seconds remaining.

After a quick foul off the inbound pass, Gigi Gonzalez was sent to the line to either keep the Camels’ comeback door open or ice the game for the Seawolves. She did the latter, knocking down both to make it a three-possession game with only 18 seconds to play. Brantley tacked on a meaningless free throw towards the end to finalize it.

Stony Brook struggled slightly against Campbell’s tough defense, as it finished with a .382/.400/.684 shooting line. Gigi Gonzalez led the charge for them with 13 points on 4-of-11 shooting and two assists. The 2023-2024 CAA Player of the Year chipped in on both ends with two steals and also forced some crucial uncredited turnovers.

Brantley was the unsung hero of the day, as she scored nine points while shooting 3-for-4 and 2-for-3 shooting from three. She also racked up six rebounds, two steals and a block.

Brantley helped spearhead a bench that scored 27 points on the day. Keenan chipped in nine points and shot 3-for-7 from the field and 2-for-4 from three-point range. She also pulled down six rebounds. Power forward Shamarla King was efficient, scoring six points on 3-of-5 shooting while also hauling in six boards and collecting one steal.

The frontcourt duo of Pittman and Clark had trouble getting it going all game, as they combined for 15 points on 4-for-17 shooting. Both made their impact elsewhere, as Pittman led the team with eight rebounds and they both blocked one shot.

Unlike most coaches, Langford can rest easy knowing the cohesion of her rotation is elite on both ends.

“We are a complete team, that’s how it has been all year,” Langford said. “It’s any given night somebody different steps up. Makes me feel good at night to go to sleep.”

Tuelle paced the Camels with 16 points on 5-of-14 shooting — 4-of-11 of which was from deep. Tuelle was her team’s only double-digit scorer and steady shooter, as her teammates shot a combined 3-for-18 from deep.

Now in the 2024 CAA women’s basketball tournament semifinals, the Seawolves will have to defeat N.C. A&T to keep their championship hopes alive. The Aggies beat 13th-seeded Hofstra 55-40 on Friday.

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