A recurring theme has emerged this season for the Pace University women’s basketball team. The Setters find themselves in a huge early hole, make a furious second-half comeback, then fall just short of winning.
It happened again on Saturday afternoon at the Goldstein Fitness Center, where the hosts erased nearly all of a 17-point fourth-quarter deficit before losing to the Adelphi Panthers 78-72 in a Northeast-10 Conference game that was all but decided when the Setters couldn’t secure a needed defensive rebound with 15 seconds remaining.
“We’ve had a lot of games like this,” said disappointed Setters head coach Carrie Seymour shortly after her team had dropped to 9-15 overall and 6-10 in the NE10. “We can’t dig ourselves a hole that big. We do it consistently. We can’t do it because then you’ve got to play perfect and we’re not gonna be able to play perfect.”
For a while, though, it was Adelphi that had to play from behind. Back-to-back 3-pointers by Setter senior Stefanie Svoboda opened up a 13-7 Pace lead with 4:13 left in the opening quarter. But the Panthers, now 12-12 this season, answered with a 12-2 spurt over the next three minutes. A 3-point shot by Julia Strachan just moments before the buzzer gave Adelphi a 22-18 edge after one quarter.
The second quarter began with consecutive baskets from the Setters’ Lauren Schetter and then two free throws by Jackie DelliSanti. Adelphi responded with a 7-0 spurt and took the lead for good on a 3-pointer from the right wing by Strachan just over two minutes into the period.
After Pace sophomore Naya Rivera provided two straight buckets to narrow the Setter deficit to just 34-30 with 4:12 to go, Adelphi closed the half on a 12-5 run, building a 46-35 cushion as 6-foot-1 center Leonie Edringer, who had 10 of her team-high 18 points in the quarter, connected on a 10-footer at the buzzer.
“We haven’t been giving a good effort against other people’s posts,” said Seymour. “We’re allowing a size advantage to mean that we don’t attempt to guard the way we work on in practice. You can’t survive like that. We’ve been beaten up badly in the post the last two games.”
Edringer, who began her college career at Boise State, was 6-for-9 from the field in the first half, helping the Panthers shoot 63 percent over the first 20 minutes.
“The first half, they got a million layups,” Seymour said. “It was a lot of transition layups. We started off the first half so lackadaisical and just going through the motions. We had a terrible time guarding the foul-line area in the zone. If you’re gonna give ‘em layups and wide-open shots, I’m surprised they didn’t shoot a better percentage.”
A basket by freshman guard Brianna Wong, followed by two more from DelliSanti, narrowed the Pace deficit to 48-41 with 7:20 left in the third quarter. But by the end of the period, Adelphi had increased its lead to 62-49. The Panthers built their largest margin of the day, 66-49, when the fourth quarter began with a reverse layup by Emily Miccile and then a 15-foot pop by the deft-shooting Edringer.
But the Setters soon answered with their customary second-half push, going on a 16-4 blitz over the next five and a half minutes that was triggered by a 3-pointer from Allie Monteleone and capped by a layup from DelliSanti. Suddenly the Adelphi lead was down to just five points and DelliSanti, who scored 18 of her game-high 24 points in the second half, seemed unstoppable.
A lefty toss in the lane by DelliSanti with 1:40 remaining brought the Setters to within 74-69, then a minute later freshman Kelsey Quain drilled her second 3-pointer of the quarter to cut the Panthers’ lead to just two. But when Adelphi’s Jess Camarda misfired on a 3-point shot from the top of the key with 20 seconds to go, teammate Katie Murphy came up with an offensive rebound that ruined the Setters’ comeback bid.
Two free throws by Niajah Morgan with 10.2 seconds on the clock gave Adelphi a four-point lead, then the Setters turned the ball over at the other end. Miccile’s two foul shots with a second to go provided the Panthers with their final winning margin.
“My biggest concern is that we’re not making progress in the same areas,” said Seymour. “It’s the same story. Not every game, but too frequently. A lot of it has got to do with being prepared. Our practice habits are not good. That’s something we’ve been addressing the entire year. It hurts us in games. Yeah, we picked up the effort after we got down big. I would like to see what we’d look like if we played with that effort for close to, well, 30 minutes would be a big difference for us.”