Setters’ Second-Half Comeback Falls Just a Bit Short

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Jackie DelliSanti of Pace tries to dribble past Post University’s Mia Crooms during last Sunday’s game.

Watching her team play its first half dozen games this season has left Pace women’s basketball coach Carrie Seymour feeling like someone who’s spent a lot of time at a carnival.

“We’ve been like a roller coaster,” she conceded late Sunday afternoon after her Setters had taken her on yet another wild ride. “Our effort has been too up and down.”

Hosting Post University at the Goldstein Fitness Center, the Setters fell behind by 16 points in the third quarter, then fought back to within a point before dropping a 71-67 decision to the Eagles. Despite 21 points from Lauren Schetter and 20 from Jackie DelliSanti, Pace lost for the fourth time in six games this year.

“We just went through the motions the first 25 minutes,” said Seymour, now in her 27th season at the Setters’ helm. “Our effort has to change. Our effort, our emotion. It’s one of those things you can’t coach. But we were just very flat and played like we were content to just let the game get out of our hands.”

After a first quarter in which the lead changed hands five times and the Setters trailed by just two points, Post began to take command. The Eagles outscored Pace 25-11 over the final eight and a half minutes of the half to build a 46-33 cushion at intermission. Post’s Sha’Raya Haines connected on a 3-pointer with 35 seconds remaining and Hannah Benac added another one at the buzzer to cap the Eagles’ surge.

“Some of it is youth,” said Seymour, whose starting lineup Sunday included a pair of freshmen guards, Lauren Hackett and Brianna Wong. “Some of it is not understanding how prepared you have to be to be competitive. And we’re paying the price for it because last year we had two seniors that played a lot of minutes and they understood how prepared you had to be and what it takes to be prepared for a game.”

A couple of free throws by Schetter with 4:43 left in the third quarter narrowed the Setters’ deficit to nine points, but Post then went on a 7-0 burst to open up its largest lead of the day at 59-43 with exactly three minutes to go in the period. Seymour called for a timeout and chided her players that “we’re not on the same page” as they sat down to huddle.

Whatever else she said seemed to work as the Setters returned to the court and proceeded to score four consecutive baskets, including two by Allie Monteleone, the senior guard playing her first game after hurting her knee early in the preseason. The quarter ended with Pace suddenly within eight points.

Following a basket by Lauren Chambers that gave Post a 63-53 lead with just over eight minutes remaining, the Setters responded with a 7-0 spurt as Schetter made a turnaround jumper in the lane, Monteleone provided an old-fashioned 3-point play and DelliSanti scored on a pullup jumper near the foul line.

Another bucket from Chambers gave the Eagles a 65-60 advantage, but Schetter answered with a short baseline pop and Wong, who finished with 12 points and four steals, followed with a layup, moving the Setters to within a point with 3:30 left on the clock. But that was as close as Pace would get.

A basket by Melanie Polanco and two free throws from Mia Crooms stretched the Eagles’ lead back to five points with 1:33 to go. Still, the Setters weren’t quite done yet. Two foul shots by Monteleone and one by Schetter with 50 seconds left narrowed the deficit to 69-67. After an Eagle turnover, Pace had a couple of big chances to change the outcome.

But in an exasperating sequence for the Setters, both Schetter and DelliSanti missed shots underneath that would’ve tied the score, and in between them Monteleone misfired on a contested 3-pointer from the top of the key with 24 seconds remaining. Polanco then made two clinching free throws with 12 seconds left.

“The hole we dug, regardless of what we did in the run, the hole we dug getting down by 16 at one point, was just too much,” said Seymour. “It’s hard to flip a switch. If your energy is bad, it’s hard to turn it on and off. And the frustrating thing is we don’t know why the energy was bad.”

The Eagles wound up making 17 of their 19 shots from the foul line and outrebounded Pace by a 41-28 margin to put an end to the Setters’ two-game winning streak.

“Of course we all would’ve loved to have won the game,” said Seymour. “But we still would’ve felt the same way. Like coming out not ready to go from the beginning. Taking 25 minutes to realize, ‘OK, we’ve got to pick up our energy and we’ve got to buckle down a little bit and follow the scouting report.’ There’s a lot of things that happen in games that if you’re watching don’t appear to be big things. But they’re huge things as far as whether or not we’re gonna be able to be competitive. And we missed out on a lot of those key things today.”

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