After securing an NCAA tournament bid for the first time since 2012, the women’s basketball team played in the first two rounds of the tournament this weekend. Although Hopkins scored a resounding victory in the first round, the Blue Jays fell in the second round to the University of Scranton Lady Royals, ending their tournament run.
On Friday, the Blue Jays played Eastern Connecticut State University. The team didn’t waste any time, taking a lead very early in the game. Early scoring was the story of the first quarter, with Hopkins leading 13-4 after four minutes. A last-second jump shot by senior guard Lexie Scholtz brought the score to 21-6 to end of the first quarter.
The trends in the first quarter continued into the next, as four quick points by senior forward/center Rory Cole put the team up by 19 points. An impressive defensive effort held the Warriors to only 11 points in the second quarter, and thanks to two late threes by senior guard Madison McGrath, the quarter ended with a score of 34-17.
The Blue Jays continued to convert on both the offensive and defensive ends in the second half. Early in the third quarter, the score rose all the way to a 40-19 lead. ECSU went on an impressive run toward the end of the quarter that trimmed the lead down to 12 points. Hopkins led 44-32.
Consistency marked the fourth quarter, as Hopkins closed the game perfectly. The Blue Jays prevented ECSU from recreating its third quarter success and the game ended 58-42. This was the only time Hopkins has ever played ECSU, making the team 1-0 all-time against the Warriors. Hopkins also improved to 9-1 in first round games of the NCAA tournament all-time. Senior guard Lillian Scott talked about the Jays’ first-round success.
“I think the key to Friday’s win was very good defense, we played a 2-3 zone which was effective in forcing them out of their comfort zone and making them take outside shots. Offensively, our posts had a lot of success scoring which was definitely instrumental in the win,” she said.
The second round matchup was against the Scranton Lady Royals. The game was competitive from the start. A layup from Scott tied the score early, 6-6. Good play from both teams brought the score to 16-10 with Scranton in the lead, but Scott scored at the last second to bring the score to 16-12 at the end of the first quarter.
Unfortunately, Hopkins began to slip in the second quarter. With more than eight minutes left in the half, Scranton was already up by 10 points. At one point, the Blue Jays were only seven points behind, but Scranton would not be stopped at home. Halftime came with Scranton leading 34-23.
At one point in the third quarter, Scholtz hit a layup and brought the team to within nine points, 39-30, with four minutes left. Scranton refused to back down, and the quarter ended with the Blue Jays behind 46-34.
Hopkins headed into the fourth quarter fighting an uphill battle. The team fought hard, though, and quickly brought the score to 46-40 after a score by Scott. By the last two minutes, the score was already 55-44 and Scranton’s lead seemed insurmountable. The game ended 59-46 as Scranton moved onto the Sweet Sixteen and Hopkins’ tournament run came to a close.
Historically, Scranton has been a tough matchup for the Blue Jays. Scranton leads the all-time meetings between the two 4-1 and is 3-0 in the NCAA tournament against Hopkins. Scott, who scored 20 points on Saturday, reflected on the loss.
“Credit to Scranton, they were a very strong team that always had five players who could score on the court. I think there were times that we had defensive lapses that they took advantage of, and ultimately it left us in too deep of a hole to climb out of. That being said though, I think we continued to fight until the end and did not back down even when Scranton started to pull away,” she said.
This was perhaps the Blue Jays’ most successful season since 2011-2012, when the team finished 24-5 and made it to the second round of the NCAA tournament before losing to Tufts University. This season, four players started more than 20 games: Scott, Scholtz, McGrath and Cole. All four of these players are seniors, and their experience and hard work certainly helped make this season a success. Scott stepped back to think about her final season with the team.
“I’m very grateful to have achieved so much success both individually and as a team during my final year. I’ve had great coaches and teammates, and though it is hard to end my career with a loss, it’s been a fulfilling year with no regrets!” she said.