SCRANTON, PA. – The SUNY Poly women's basketball team is moving on to the second round of the NCAA Division III Championship Tournament after an 80-72 win over the Eastern Connecticut State Warriors. The Wildcats win is the first NCAA Tournament win for any women's program in the history of SUNY Poly Athletics.
The Wildcats played a great game on both sides of the ball. The team shot 48 percent from the field and forced 26 turnovers by the Warriors leading to 18 points by the Wildcats. The only statistical category Eastern Connecticut had an advantage in the game was on the glass where the bigger Warrior front court grabbed 50 rebounds to the Wildcats 35.
The Wildcats had control for a majority of the game. The Wildcats had a 17 point lead midway through the third but the Warriors would not back down. Eastern Connecticut brought the game back within two points with a just 26 seconds to go in the game. Good free throw shooting by Stevie Ray (Syracuse, N.Y.) and Taylor Aybar (Woodside, N.Y.) and a steal leading to a fast break basket by Khristaijah Jackson (Levittown, Pa.) would seal the deal advancing the Wildcats to the second round of the NCAA Championship Tournament.
Stevie Ray was the obvious game MVP. The 2017 NEAC Player of the Year showed her bulk scoring ability by putting up her third 40 plus point performance of the season. Ray finished the game with 43 points. Every shot that the senior took looked like it was going in the net. Ray showed everyone in the gym why she is the best three point shooter in Division III; knocking down five of nine from three point land. Ray also had four assists, a team high 5 steals, four rebounds, and a block in the win.
Khristaijah Jackson had a solid outing for the Wildcats. The junior shot 60 percent from the field scoring 12 points. Jackson also pulled down four rebounds, had three steals, and an assist. Jackson had her hands full in the paint with the bigger front court of Eastern Connecticut, but the forward held her own forcing the Warriors to miss a lot of shots in the paint.
The freshman duo of Taylor Aybar and Kiersten Leos (Camden, N.Y.) played a big role for the Wildcats. Aybar was the game's leading rebounder pulling down 14 boards in 39 minutes of play at the point. Aybar had a total of six points, three assists, a steal, and a block. Leos started for the Wildcats and had 10 points in 29 minutes. She shot 67 percent from the floor, had four assists, and a steal.
For the Warriors, Jordyn Nappi had a team high 19 points on 7-20 from the field. She had eight rebounds, two assists, and a block. Kelsey Santagata had 14 points in the game and led the Warriors with 11 rebounds. Santagata had a game high eight offensive rebounds. Julia DePoi had 13 points on 2-14 from the field. The guard struggled to hold on to possession, turning the ball over a team high seven times. As a team the Warriors shot 32 percent from the field, 22 percent from three, and a respectable 86 percent from the charity stripe.
With the first round win the Wildcats improve to a program best 26-2 this season. The team advances to play the winner of the New England U. vs. Scranton game which will conclude later this evening. The second round game will tip off Saturday, March 4th at 5:00 PM at Scranton Universities John Long Center. Updates and coverage links will be posted on the SUNY Poly Athletic Department's website when they become available.