The Seton Hall WBB Pirates(19-14, 10-10 Big East) held off a furious late rally by the Saint Joseph University Hawks(20-11, 9-7 Atlantic 10) 69-61 at the Walsh Gymnasium(Seton Hall University) in South Orange, New Jersey.
Lauren Park-Lane totaled a game-high 30 points, the seventh time Park-Lane has reached the 30-point mark this season and the 12th time in her Pirates career. Meanwhile, Sidney Cooks dropped her fifth double-double this year with 17 points and 10 rebounds.
Seton Hall Head Coach Tony Bozzella on the victory, "That was a really good game and congratulations to Saint Joseph for an outstanding, well-coached, and very talented season. Even when we were up 31-13 at the end of the first quarter, I knew it was going to come down to the end and we were going to have to play our best 40 minutes. We had hiccups in the game, but our girls stayed the course."
"I'm excited for our team and the season hasn't gone exactly the way we wanted the whole time, but we had a great week of practice," Borella said about his team's performance this season."I'm really proud of the kids because it's hard to play, we're beat up and like most teams didn't give up. When it got down to two tonight we remained composed and Coach(Lauren) DeFalco and Coach Peter(Cinella) called some great plays and the rest of the staff was outstanding as well."
"I said that Lauren(Park-Lane) and Sidney(Cooks) would have to get 50 point(s) and they got 47 between them," Bozzella said about his star players' performances. "Lauren(Park-Lane came out on fire and this week had the most balanced week of practice and understood what we were looking for."
"Everyone just jumped on board, Amari's(Amari Wright) defensive intensity, we challenged Sidney(Cooks) to rebound the ball and she had a double-double and Azana(Baines) really battled inside the zone and played outstanding defense."
The Pirates were smoking from the get-go on the perimeter as Lauren Park-Lane buried four trifectas that sparked an emphatic 14-0 run to start the game.
Seton Hall clamped down defensively with a tenacious man-to-man that held the Hawks without a point for over five minutes. By the time the first quarter ended, the Pirates were up 31-13. Seton Hall shot a sizzling 66 percent from the field, hit six triples, and drained five free throws.
"There's a lot of pressure on Lauren(Park-Lane) and hard to be her," Bozzella explained. "She wants to be the best, and she loves Seton Hall, but I told her just go out and play your game, and now when you step out on that floor, you're the best player and relax and be confident."
"We needed to establish the lead and having Lauren Park-Lane lead us early when we knew having to play from behind against a team like this," Bozzella said about Park-Lane's early shooting performance. "We had to have our defensive pressure be the reason to take them out of their rhythm for a long time."
In the second quarter, Saint Joseph's managed to trim the Pirates' advantage to 12 points at 35-23. However, Cooks canned a trey to stem the tide. Despite struggling to shoot a meager 28 percent from the perimeter, Seton Hall was up 42-26 at halftime.
In the third quarter, the Pirates were still in front by double digits most of the time, but the Hawks with a late 6-0 run to narrow the gap to 55-46 at the end of the period. Saint Joseph's rebounded to shoot an effective 53 percent and hit three jumpers behind the arc.
Once the fourth quarter commenced, the Hawks kept surging ahead, slicing the Seton Hall margin down to 55-50. Cooks tallied five straight points to bump the Pirate's lead back up to double digits at 60-50 with six and half minutes remaining.
Just when it appeared Seton Hall was on the verge of expanding their advantage, Saint Joseph's erupted for a 12-2 run to whittle the Pirates' lead to 63-61 with less than two minutes.
The Pirates stayed cool under the pressure as the Hawks committed fouls in the last minute and a half of action. Seton Hall turned up the defensive intensity as Saint Joseph's missed a jump shot and turned the ball over.
Park-Lane stepped up the line several times and sank four free throws to provide breathing space. Amari Wright sealed the win by hitting two free throws as the Pirates prevailed.
Seton Hall returns to action in the second round of the WNIT when they host the Syracuse Orange(19-12, 9-9 ACC) at the Walsh Gymnasium on Monday, March 20th, with tip-off set for 7 p.m. Syracuse rolled past Kent State 84-56 in the first round.
"I'm excited to play Syracuse, a top Power Five team and tremendous program and their head coach(Felisha Legette-Jack) is a good friend of mine and she's doing wonders for the team to be in the second round," Bozzella described. "They have struggled the past few years but they have one of the best guards(Dyaisha Fair) in the country and they have great length and physical and we're going to have to be physical and a great challenge for us."
"I'm not trying to be a ticket salesman but we need the crowd to be really loud from the beginning of the game and sell this place out and wear blue," Bozzella said about the Pirates' upcoming game against Syracuse. "I'm happy to be home gain on Monday and a direct tribute to our school and administration that's willing to support financially. Tatum Colitz and our AD Bryan Felt went above and beyond and knew it was important for us to be home and have a better chance to win."
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