With two pivotal games this weekend, the Plattsburgh State women’s basketball team will fight for a spot in the SUNYAC tournament, starting with a game against the third-seeded Oneonta Red Dragons tonight in Memorial Hall at 5:30 p.m.

With Brockport clinching last week, only one spot in the tournament remains, but head coach Cheryl Cole is still hopeful her team will make a playoff appearance this season.

Fredonia and Buffalo State are both frontrunners for the sixth and final spot with a tied SUNYAC conference record of 7-10.

The two teams will face off against each other tomorrow in what may serve as the determining game for the final spot in the tournament, but Cole isn’t paying any mind to that game in Fredonia before their game against Oneonta.

“It’s out of our hands,” Cole said. “All we can control is what we do Friday night.”

Although the Cardinals (8-15, 6-10) are behind them by one game, PSUC can spoil the winning team’s night by running the table.

In order to do so, the Cards will have to beat two playoff-bound teams to force a tiebreaker situation. Seeding isn’t final, meaning both Oneonta (16-7, 11-5) and New Paltz (14-9, 10-6) will look to beat PSUC for a better playoff position.

Fresh off a 56-52 comeback win against the Potsdam Bears (2-21, 0-16), the Cards are upbeat coming off a must-win game.

The game started meekly for PSUC. With only four points in the first quarter, the Cards were in danger of losing control of the game.

“We were playing not to lose,” Cole said. “Instead of playing to win.”

In the must-win game, Cole felt her players were timid and weren’t playing to their strengths.

“We were real tight,” Cole said. “We were afraid to lose.”

“Our best player [injured sophomore Frannie Merkel] was in street clothes and our two leading scorers didn’t score a basket,” Cole said.

PSUC’s youth led the way through a rally in the second half to outscore the Bears 42-28.

Facing a 16-point deficit in the third quarter, the Cards chipped away at the Bears’ lead with free throws and 3-point field goals.

Sophomore forward Clare Taylor gave PSUC its first lead since the opening minute by scoring a pair of free throws with 11 seconds left in the third quarter.

Leading the Cards to its sixth win was junior guard Bella DePasquale, who scored 21 points while shooting at a 7-13 clip from the field. All of her points came from 3-point range, 18 of which came in the second half.

DePasquale is the team’s third-leading scorer and entered Saturday’s game fresh off a 2-8, 6-point outing against SUNY Cortland and a 2-15, 5-point showing against  SUNY Oswego.

“I was coming off bad shooting performances,” DePasquale said, “I just had to get my mind off of them. I wanted to win. We had no other option.”

But it was freshman forward Mary McKenna who gave PSUC the lead by scoring the go-ahead layup with 36 seconds left in a back-and-forth final quarter, which saw four lead changes and ties.

Going into this critical weekend, Cole knows what is needed from her team.

“We have got to leave it all on the floor,” Cole said. “We have nothing to lose and everything to gain.”

Email Fernando Alba at sports@cardinalpointsonline.com

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