By Jerry Del Priore
Getting ahead early, to start both halves, proved to be the difference for the top-seeded Brooklyn College Women’s Basketball team en route to a 59-55 win over No. 3 College of Staten Island (CSI) Sunday at the West Quad Center.
It was the Lady Bulldogs’ second consecutive Eastern College Athletic Conference (ECAC) Division III Metro/Upstate Championship.
Head coach Alex Lang attributed the victory to coming out of the gates fast in both halves, as well as the Brooklyn College’s tenacious style of defense.
“Our players started the game with great intensity,” Lang explained. “We got up early, which was the key. We increased our lead in both halves, right from the beginning of the halves, and that’s really the key for our team, because we’re very tough to score against. We have size in the middle and long, athletic guards. Once we get a lead, it’s a good position for us to be in.”
Speaking of quick starts, the Lady Bulldogs took command of the tilt earlier on, jumping out to a 12-point lead in the first quarter. Though the Lady Dolphins fought back, Brooklyn College ended the first period ahead by the score of 16-9.
Displaying a measure of pluckiness, CSI sliced the Lady Bulldogs’ advantage to 2 points with 37 seconds remaining in the first half.
Brooklyn College responded with 2 layups, however, including one at the buzzer by sophomore guard Karen Mak, which increased its lead to 6 points (30- 24) going into the locker rooms.
The Lady Bulldogs opened the second half on fire, with Mak draining a bucket to give the team a 39-28 advantage with 6:52 remaining in the third quarter. Refusing to surrender again, the Lady Dolphins cut the deficit to 39-37 with less than four minutes remaining in the period.
From there, Brooklyn College closed out the quarter on a 7-1 run to take a 46-38 lead.
Staying true to form, Staten Island narrowed the gap to 6 points with 1:33 to go in the contest. However, the Bulldogs came up with a couple of key steals and converted enough free throws down the stretch to seal the deal.
Seeing its conference opponents often during the season, Lang said Brooklyn College was able to weather the Lady Dolphins’ spirited surges.
“Staten Island, they’re very scrappy. They don’t stop coming at you, and they fight you on everything,” Lang said. “If you get a rebound, they smack it back and try to get the ball. On defense, they’re in your face. They’re trapping, running, coming from behind, trying to steal the ball. They’re a tough team to play, but we see Staten Island quite a bit, and we were prepared for them.”
The Bulldogs had three players who registered double-digit points, including Mak, who paced the squad with 17 points. Junior center Maya Ajee- Thomas contributed 13 and junior forward Olivia Colbert had 12 in the victory.
A prototypical team player, Twanda Holder wasn’t so concerned with her overall stats – just the fact that Brooklyn College was able to end the season on a high note with a tournament triumph.
“At the end of the day, as long as my team gets the W, I feel points don’t really play a factor, because I like to help across the board,” Holder said. “I like to help on the defensive end, I like to grab rebounds and I like to get steals. I like to help my teammates score, so the points that I score aren’t important to me.”
Mak, the team’s captain, added 10 rebounds and eight steals to help claim the tournament’s Most Outstanding Player award for her overall efforts in the final and semifinal—a 65-40 rout of No. 4 Centenary College played at Brooklyn College, in which she posted seven points, seven boards and six assists.