Tonight, the Plattsburgh State women’s basketball team will enter its final three-game stretch of the regular season with a game against the SUNY Potsdam Bears. Despite a lackluster record, the Cardinals still have an eye on the sixth seed in the SUNYAC conference.
With a 5-10 SUNYAC conference record going into tonight’s game, PSUC isn’t exactly eliminated from playoff contention, but its shot at the post season is slim.
Three teams have already clinched a postseason spot with likely two more to follow shortly. Meanwhile, Buffalo State matches the Cards’ record and poses as the team’s largest threat for the final spot in the SUNYAC tournament.
Despite a bleak outlook for the rest of the season, head coach Cheryl Cole isn’t dissuaded from the team’s prospects.
“Our goal hasn’t changed. Every day is an opportunity for our players to get better,” Cole said. “We’re playing to get ourselves to the tournament this year, but we’re playing for the future as well.”
This year’s roster doesn’t have any senior athletes, leaving the opportunity for all current members to return for the next season.
Going into the game against Potsdam, Cole believes it’s important for her players not to underestimate a weak team.
“We’re in no position to look over anyone,” Cole said. “They’re a dangerous team. They’ve played some good teams tight.”
That includes teams like the 4th-seeded Oneonta, which they lost to by only three points.
Following the Potsdam game, the Cards will face two playoff teams in SUNY Oneonta and SUNY New Paltz.
Over the break, PSUC suffered a major hit by losing forward Frannie Merkel to injury. Merkel led in rebounding and also was one of the team’s top scoring options. In her absence, sophomore guard Taylor Durnin has taken responsibility for much of the team’s scoring load.
Now leading the team in scoring with 11.6 points per game, Durnin didn’t see any playing time last year. Instead, she sat next to Cole during games, absorbing what she could from the bench while she recovered from an ACL injury.
Durnin felt sitting next to the coach and observing how offenses operate and how defenses react for an entire season served as a valuable learning experience, but she also believes her cerebral play helps offset the loss in athleticism she experienced from her ACL injury.
In her rookie season, Durnin has recorded multiple impressive performances, including most recently a career-high 21-point outing against the Red Dragons.
Durnin has heard the rookie-of-the-year murmurs, but doesn’t pay much attention to them.
“A couple of people have mentioned it to me,” Durnin said. “But honestly, I’m just out here playing basketball.”
Cole believes Durnin’s versatility poses a threat for opposing teams’ defenses. The ability to dribble, drive, shoot and even post up in certain situations, presents a unique challenge for defenses to overcome.
Durnin didn’t enter the season as a complete package, though. First, she had to find confidence in her shot before she became the versatile scoring threat she is today.
“Shooting the three has opened up all of my scoring options,” Durnin said. “If someone closes out on me then I can drive by them and vice versa.”
Durnin is looking forward for her next matchup against Potsdam saying, “I just want to crush them.”
Email Fernando Alba at firstname.lastname@example.org