Wednesday, May 22, 2024

Vets lead 2-0 sweep, keep playoff hopes alive

The script writes itself.

Senior Bella DePasquale finds herself at the free throw line with 47 seconds remaining in overtime against the Oswego Lakers. With a chance to win the game and keep her team in playoff contention on Senior Day, DePasquale misses both from the line. 

The buzzer sounds, and the scoreboard reads 67 apiece. The game is headed for double overtime. 

DePasquale heads back to the bench and slams her fists on the floor in frustration as head coach Cheryl Cole rallies her team. Cole shows no sign of doubt that her four-year veteran will recover. 

“[DePasquale] was going to win that game for us,” Cole said. “She’s given too much to this program and to the game of basketball to let that define how her career was going to end.”

DePasquale responded by scoring two crucial three-pointers in the second overtime period. One to tie the game, her sixth of afternoon, and another to extend the lead to five, her seventh, leaving her 21 points to lead all Cardinals. 

Junior Taylor Durnin’s two free throws sealed the game for PSUC with four seconds remaining, placing the Cards in the sixth and final tournament seed for now with a 7-9 SUNYAC record.  

Entering the game off a 71-58 win against the fourth-seeded Cortland Red Dragons, the Plattsburgh State women’s basketball team was feeling confident going against the then 1-14 Lakers who had not won a single game on the road this season.

“We weren’t losing,” DePasquale said. “We needed that win.”

But the Lakers presented more of a challenge than the Cardinals expected.

Oswego played its starting five nearly the entire game. The Lakers bench played only 10 minutes of the double-overtime contest. 

Oswego forward Rachel Windhausen recorded her season-high in rebounds with 21 to go along with her season-high 34 points to lead all scorers on 12-15 shooting from the field and a perfect 10-10 from the free throw line.   

“They were playing for pride,” Cole said. 

DePasquale approached her last game in Memorial Hall with focus, knowing her only chance of making the postseason for the first time in her career would be with a win against Oswego. 

DePasquale started the game strong by scoring nine straight points for PSUC, but then followed by failing to score a single point for the rest of regulation, missing 12 straight field goals. 

In her scoring absence, the trio of Durnin and freshmen Kelly Degnan and Ly’rell Walker accounted for 37 points during regulation. 

Of Walker’s 11 points in the first four quarters, none were bigger than the two she scored after an offensive rebound by Degnan with 11 seconds remaining in the fourth to tie the game and send it to the first overtime.

 DePasquale bounced back from her shooting slump with two threes, the only six points her team scored in the first overtime period.

“I knew we needed points,” DePasquale said, “and if I stopped shooting, that wasn’t going to happen.”

After 50 minutes of play, PSUC left with the hard-fought win. 

“It was exhausting,” Walker said. “Everything was mental at that point. It came down to who had more heart.” 

The Cards face an even tougher weekend with a game tonight against the third-seeded Oneonta Red Dragons away, followed by another road game tomorrow against New Paltz, the No. 1 team in the conference. 

PSUC played both teams last semester as the first conference games of the season on Nov. 30 and Dec. 1 in Memorial Hall. Both were double-digit losses, with the 19-point loss against New Paltz being the largest conference loss of the season. 

“It’s a little daunting,” Cole said.

But the Cards are entering this weekend with a similar confidence they had last weekend.  

“We can definitely beat them. There’s no doubt in our minds,” DePasquale said.

Playing in PSUC’s favor is the absence of Oneonta’s top scorer, junior Leanne Corso, who puts up 12.6 points per game, due to injury. 

Cole is counting on the growth the young team has experienced defensively this season to propel them to the SUNYAC tournament. 

Growing pains were apparent in the close losses the Cards suffered this season. Two conference losses were determined by one possession, while another was lost in overtime. If those games were flipped, PSUC would be comfortably holding onto the fourth seed, but Cole chose to focus on the positives from the close losses. 

“It’s made us better. It made us tougher,” she said.

Overall, Cole likes her team’s chances despite the small margin of error.

“We’re playing with a ton of momentum,” she said.

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