For most of the evening last Wednesday, Pace University guard Jessica Scannell might have been thinking of ways to confiscate whatever tape there was of the Setters’ home game against Southern New Hampshire.
After all, she had missed every one of her half dozen shots from the field and her sixth turnover of the night with a minute left seemed like it might be the straw that broke the team’s back.
But all her frustration disappeared in an instant as she sailed through the lane with 21.6 seconds remaining, dropping in the game-winning basket in the Setters’ dramatic 50-49 win over the Henmen at the Goldstein Fitness Center.
“It definitely wasn’t her best game mentally,” said Setters coach Carrie Seymour shortly after Scannell’s timely bucket decided a contest the Setters led by 11 points early in the second half. “She definitely was off, and she was stressing because of it. She lost her focus. But it was a big shot at the end.”
Brittany Shields scored 14 points and hauled in nine rebounds to lead the Setters, who improved to 9-7 this season, 7-5 in the Northeast-10 Conference. Allison Cleary added 13 points, 11 of them coming during a productive first half in which she sparked Pace to a 25-16 lead.
“Cleary did a good job,” said Seymour. “She picked us up. We were struggling and she made some big shots. She got to the hoop. It was a big boost.”
The Setters were clinging to a two-point lead late in the opening half before Cleary, a senior guard from Orange County’s Cornwall, erupted for four baskets. With 1:15 to go before halftime, she drove the right baseline for a short bank shot and then concluded the half with a 3-pointer out of the left corner after teammate Brianna Harris had secured an offensive rebound.
Margo Hackett opened the second half with a short jumper to increase the Pace advantage to 11 points. When Hackett connected on a left-side 3-pointer with 13:55 left on the clock, the Setters’ lead was 38-31. But the Setters would then go scoreless for nearly seven minutes, enabling Southern New Hampshire to go on an 8-0 run and take a one-point lead with exactly 10 minutes remaining.
Asked if she was aware of the long drought, Seymour answered, “Well, yeah, you could see the score wasn’t moving. Again, it was we get tentative. We’re second guessing our passes into the post. They (the Henmen) do a really good job of stealing the ball on the post entry. We were so concerned about that that we weren’t even looking to throw it inside.”
To make matters worse, Shields, the Setters’ big inside presence who leads the team with 14.2 points a game, didn’t have her usual explosiveness down low. “It’s her Achilles,” said Seymour. “Both of them are bad. Brittany got hurt early in the game and had to come out, and I think that was bothering her all game. Sometimes you can tell she doesn’t have any lift in her.”
Lift or no lift, Shields still managed to score on a layup with 5:26 to go, giving the Setters a 44-42 lead. After Sloan Sorrell, who led SNHU with 23 points, tied the game, Harris hit on a jumper from right of the key. Just 35 seconds later, a determined Shields scored on a put-back and the Pace edge was 48-44 with 4:05 remaining.
Unfortunately for the Setters, they then went through another scoring drought, coming up empty until the game-winning basket by Scannell in the game’s final moments. The Henmen, meanwhile, got a conventional 3-point play by Sorrell to close within a point and later on a layup by Lorreta Rocha that gave them the lead with just over two minutes on the clock.
With a minute to go, Scannell turned the ball over when her entry pass to Shields was picked off. But she soon made up for it in a big way with her strong drive down the middle of the floor that led to the decisive layup. Deborah Lavalley of the Henmen missed a potential game-winning 3-point attempt and Shields grabbed the rebound with just 3.1 seconds remaining.
The Henmen, with just three team fouls at that point, were out of luck once Shields was able to send a length-of-the-court pass to Scannell at the other end of the floor. The game ended after three intentional fouls without Pace ever needing to make the front end of a 1-and-1.
“Usually, you’re in good shape when you don’t have fouls at the end,” said Seymour about the Henmen misfortune. “But it kind of helped us out a little bit. All we had to do was catch the ball.”
PACE PLUS: The Setters finished the week with their second overtime loss in the last three games, falling at Franklin Pierce on Saturday 69-60 in a contest they led by 24 points early in the second half. Scannell finished with a team-high 15 points. Hackett scored 13 points, while Shields added nine points and eight boards.
Pace travels to Merrimack tonight (Tuesday), then hosts Stonehill at the Goldstein Fitness Center on Saturday at 1:30.
Andy is a sports editor at Examiner Media, covering seven high schools in the mid-Westchester region with a notebook and camera. He began there in the fall of 2007 following 15 years as a candid photographer for the largest school picture company in the tri-state area.