The College Sports Notebook is compiled by veteran sports writer and columnist Marc Maturo, a lifetime member of the Baseball Writers Association of America (BBWAA). The notebook will be published every Thursday. Please send items of interest email@example.com.
Purchase Panthers defy prognosticators, set for tourney
On Senior Day no less, the surging women’s basketball team at Purchase College continued to shock opposing Skyline Conference colleges with a 73-51 runaway victory over visiting St. Joseph’s College of Long Island.
Prior to the season, first-year coach Kellianne Dunlay faced the knowledge that conference coaches picked the Panthers to bring up the tail end of the standings.
True to form, or so everyone must have thought, the Panthers stumbled at the start, losing six of their first seven games. From there, however, the Panthers went on the prowl, finished 16-9 overall and earned the No. 2 seed in the Skyline Conference Tournament.
Dunlay, who took over the helm from DII Mercy College in the fall, was at the center of the turnaround, revamping the lineup and achieving a home conference win over No. 1 Mount Saint Mary, the team’s longtime rival and the toast of the league for most of the past decade. Purchase proved to be the only conference team this year to defeat the Newburgh-based Knights.
“It’s a remarkable story, and an incredible season. It’s not done yet, either,” remarked athletic director Chris Bisignano on the Panthers’ website.
The opening round of the Skyline Conference Tournament is being hosted by Purchase at its Anderson Hill Road campus on Feb. 21, with two-time defending champion Mount Saint Mary (17-8) the top seed in a four-team field. The championship game is scheduled on Feb. 23 on the campus of the highest remaining seed.
Purchase College veteran Jessica Biggs of Nanuet, one of three seniors who were honored before the Saint’s Joseph’s contest, is ready to roll as the Panthers prepare to battle third-seeded Old Westbury (16-9). The Long Island-housed Panthers, like the Purchase-based Panthers, went 10-4 in league play. They are anchored by junior forward DeAndra Scott of St. Albans, a seven-time Skyline Player of the Week selection this season who is averaging 19 points and 10 rebounds.
“I’m feeling great about the game,” Biggs said before a practice session earlier in the week. “We’re hoping to meet (Mount) Saint Mary in the final. There’s been a lot of talk about our turnaround, especially by the best teams, and their coach is a little upset about us beating them.”
Biggs, a transfer from Mercy College where she played under Coach Dunlay, said the Panthers are counting on her to hit from 3-point range.
“My team is counting on me to hit some 3’s, that’s what I do,” Biggs noted. “Usually I’m hitting, some times I’m not. I hope this time I’m hitting them.”
The game against Old Westbury is a rubber match, with Purchase having lost the first encounter but bouncing back to win the rematch.
“It’s pretty amazing,” adds Biggs, echoing the sentiments shared by many on the team’s comeback campaign. “We went straight from the bottom to the top.”
Asked if she senses a good game upcoming, Biggs predicted it would be interesting, and candidly assessed her own outlook saying, “I have some good games, and I have some bad games. Hopefully this will be a good game.”
Biggs, who played scholastic ball at Paramus (N.J.) Catholic, is averaging 8.4 points and four rebounds in 14 games, with 15 steals, 11 assists and four blocked shots.
Teammate Jessica Bullock of Thiells, a junior, has played in 17 games, averaging two points with eight assists. Bullock, a graduate of North Rockland HS, also provided a beautiful rendition of the national anthem on Senior Day, noted sports information director Bobby Ciafardini.
The top-seeded Knights, led by junior forward Rachel Perrone of Poughquag, are holding the opposition to just 48.7 points per game on the year. (Should the Knights and Purchase meet in a rematch in the title game, push will come to shove as the Panthers are averaging 61.7 points led by five-time Skyline rookie of the week Lineker St. Hilaire of Wyandanch with a 10.8 norm.)
WILSON TOPS CONFERENCE: Former Pearl River HS star Taylor Wilson closed out an outstanding season and career on the women’s basketball team at Manhattanville College following an 88-70 loss at Misericordia University. Wilson, who led the Freedom Conference in scoring with 19 points per game, powered the Valiants with 25 points, with six rebounds and two steals. Taylor, a guard, will graduate as the sixth-leading scorer in school history with 1,213 points, including a school-record 169 baskets from 3-point range. The Valiants finish at 10-14, and were seriously hampered by an early, season-ending injury to key senior forward Jen McSharar of Garnerville.
CHARGERS TURN 20: The Dominican College men’s basketball team, with their sights already set on the CACC Tournament quarterfinals on March 2, reached the 20-win plateau following a 89-69 victory over the visiting Lightning of Goldey-Beacom (Del.) College at the Hennessy Center in Orangeburg. The Chargers, who improved to 20-5 overall and 14-3 in CACC play under veteran coach Joe Clinton of Pearl River, honored their senior players prior to the game, to wit: Leon Porter II of Laurel, Md.; Daniel Woods of Upper Marlboro, Md.; Preston Smith of Mays Landing, N.J.; Gerald Hill of Baltimore, Md.); Tyler Stradford of Staten Island; and Cory Quimby of Otisville.
LACROSSE CLASSIC AT CITI FIELD: Lacrosse and not baseball will usher in a new season at Citi Field in Flushing on March 17 when the Mets stadium hosts the first-ever NCAA Division I lacrosse games in its history. The inaugural Metropolitan Lacrosse Classic will feature the College of the Holy Cross battling the United States Naval Academy and the University of Michigan playing Colgate University. Tickets start at $12, and both games will be held come rain or shine (and presumably, snow). Colgate, Holy Cross and Navy are rivals in the Patriot League, while Michigan is making its mark in the Eastern College Athletic Conference after dominating the club level. The games will count in the regular-season standings as each institution competes for a league championship and a NCAA Tournament appearance. For further information and tickets visit http://newyork.mets.mlb.com/nym/ticketing/lacrosse.jsp.
PIRATE POWER: Former Clarkstown North HS standout Danielle DeStasoof Congers is off to a rousing start in her second season on the softball team at Seton Hall University. DeStaso, who pitches and plays the outfield, is leading the Pirates with two homers, eight RBI and a .692 average in four games. DeStaso is 1-0 in the circle for the Pirates, who take a 2-2 record to Jacksonville, Fla., for five games in three days from Feb. 22-24. Seton Hall will stay on the road, visiting Washington, D.C., College Park, Md., Baltimore and San Diego before returning to Jersey City, N.J., on March 20 for a game against Saint Peter’s at 4 p.m.
BRAINS & BRAWN: Sophomore Paul Fields of Clarkstown is one of four SUNY Cortland wrestlers to be selected to the Empire Collegiate Wrestling Conference all-Academic Team. Fields, an alum of Clarkstown North HS, has won 13 matches this season. He’s a physical education major with a 3.53 GPA.
ABELARD RUNS TO VICTORY: St. Thomas Aquinas College track standout Mike Abelard of Spring Valley won the 200-meter run at the Molloy College Invitational in South Huntington. Abelard, a Ramapo HS alum, clocked 22.67, and also took second in the 60 meters with a time of 6.90. For his performances Abelard was recognized as the East Coast Conference (ECC) track athlete of the week. Clarkstown South HS graduate Ed Oswald of New City placed second in the high jump at 6-feet, and was honored by the ECC as field athlete of the week. The Spartans’ 4×400 relay team took first-place honors in 3:31.60 behind George Erazo of North Babylon, Garvenchy Nicolas of Brooklyn, Mike Kraus of River Vale, N.J., and Frankie Colon of Suffern. In the women’s competition, freshman standout Meagan Jaskot of Blauvelt finished third in the mile with a clocking of 5:33.61, while junior Keeley Bateman of Pearl River was fifth in the 800 with a time of 2:26.15.
QUICK HITTERS: Last year’s Class A state player of the year Christa Scognamiglio, who graduated Pearl River HS as the Pirates’ all-time leading scorer, is seeing limited playing time as a freshman guard on the women’s basketball team at Fairfield University. Scognamiglio, whose mom played the sport four years at Appalachian State, has appeared in nine games, averaging three minutes for the Lady Stags, who visit Niagara University on Feb. 22 at 7 p.m., and then travel to Buffalo on Feb. 24 to meet Canisius at 2 p.m. … Junior Taj Bridgers, who played at Spring Valley HS and was a second-team all-conference player at Rockland CC, is a member of the Purchase College men’s basketball team that reached the 20-win plateau for the third time in four seasons with a 63-34 win over St. Joseph’s of Long Island. … Dominican College in Orangeburg honored four seniors on the women’s basketball team before the Lady Chargers lost at the buzzer to Goldey-Beacom of Wilmington, Del., 61-60, in a CACC contest at the Hennessy Center. The honorees were: Bianca Harris of Teaneck, N.J.; Lindsey Lopez of Elmwood Park, N.J.; Chelsea Aronica of Staten Island; and Shannon Lavelle of Floral Park. Dominican (16-9, 13-5) now looks to March 2 and the CACC Tournament quarterfinals. … SUNY Cortland senior Amber Stephens of Stony Point finished ninth in the long jump with a leap of 16-feet 3-inches at the Cornell University Women’s Indoor Track and Field Invitational in Ithaca. Cortland, the defending league indoor champion, will compete at the SUNYAC Indoor Track and Field Championships on Feb. 23 at Brockport. The meet begins at 9 a.m. … Craig Anderson hit a half-court shot at the buzzer to give the Westchester Community College men’s basketball team a stunning 88-86 win over Rockland CC. … Conference-leading Rockland CC tried to make it 2-for-2 against Westchester CC in women’s basketball, but the host Vikings avenged an earlier loss with a 77-54 win in Valhalla. The Vikings moved into a tie for first place in the Mid-Hudson conference. … Freshman midfielder John Dugan of Stony Point, joined on the team by senior attack Paul Moreau of Pearl River, hopes to make his collegiate debut with the Manhattan College lacrosse team when the Jaspers open their home slate on Feb. 23 against Lafayette College of Easton, Pa., at 1 p.m. at Gaelic Park in Riverdale.
THIS & THAT
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Piermont’s Simona Lee, a junior at Tappan Zee HS, placed fourth in figure skating at the Empire State Winter Games in Lake Placid. Suffern HS senior A.J. Longabucco finished 22nd in slalom. Lee, who trains at Westchester Skating Academy in Elmsford, was a silver medalist a year ago.