By Jose Castillo, inside columnist
Last week, the Northeastern University (NU) women’s basketball team secured its first-ever Colonial Athletic Association (CAA) tournament win, upsetting No. 3 Hofstra University 65-54 after the Pride beat NU twice in the regular season.
The Huskies would go on to play in the first CAA tournament semifinal in school history, losing to No. 2 Drexel University 58-45 in a well-contested game.
NU’s offensive output led the Huskies to victory Thursday night. The team was able to post points early in the game, scoring 27 in the first quarter, a season high. Freshman Jess Genco scored 10 points within the first, nailing two shots from beyond the arc. She, along with senior forward Samantha DeFreese, would go on to net a combined 34 points during the night’s game.
The Huskies continued to play superior offense in the second quarter, scoring an additional 15 points. Turnovers and fouls plagued Hofstra, which only managed 18 points in the first half and went into the locker room trailing by 24.
The Huskies held on to their hefty lead throughout the third quarter. Hofstra was able to build up points on free throws, and a fourth-quarter push by the Pride whittled down the Husky lead to 11 points by the end of the game, but the divide proved to be insurmountable.
The Huskies shot 41.5 percent from the field, posting a 53.3 percent clip from behind the arc. Freshman guard Jess Genco, senior forward Samantha DeFreese, junior center Francesca Sally and senior guard Kazzidy Stewart all tallied at least 11 points.
Friday’s game proved to be a more difficult matchup for NU. No. 2 Drexel kicked off the game with a 15-2 run in the first and ended the quarter up 20-9. The Dragons held onto their lead in the second, but Sally kept the Huskies in play. The junior center hit three jumpers and racked up 12 points in the quarter. Drexel headed into the locker room up 31-25 at the half.
The Huskies took the lead nearly two minutes into the second half after freshman forward Gabriella Giacone made a layup, bringing the score to 32-31. Drexel quickly pushed back, as junior guard Alexis Smith made a layup of her own. The score stayed tight for the rest of the quarter, and back to back buckets in the last minute put the Huskies down one entering the fourth, 40-39.
Neither team recorded a point in the first three minutes of the quarter until Huskies freshman guard Te’Erica Eason knocked down a free throw, tying the game at 40. Drexel then went on a 12-0 run, essentially sealing the game. Eventually the Huskies got a bucket back, but it was too late and the Dragons clung to a 58-45 win.
“This tournament was a great experience for us,” said head coach Kelly Cole in Friday’s post-game conference. “We did some wonderful things […] tonight we couldn’t get the ball to go into the hoop a couple times.”
Despite the year coming to a close, the program has achieved much this season, including a historical postseason run. With three of NU’s starting five set to return next year and the support of a strong bench, the Huskies can only go up from here, according to DeFreese
“We had an unbelievable season and an unbelievable turnaround,” DeFreese, Friday’s leading scorer, said. “There’s a lot to look forward to for [the returning players], and I wish I had more years to play with them.”
Photo courtesy Jim Pierce, Northeastern Athletics