By Michael Otero
On Wednesday, Feb. 19, the Lady Pioneers (19-5) squared off against the Mercy College Mavericks (2-22) from Dobbs Ferry, N.Y. It was a rout for the Pioneers, as they controlled most of the game and ended up winning by a score of 88-62.
The Pioneers jumped out to a quick lead when senior guard Kiki Sears started the scoring 10 seconds into the game with a layup. The Pioneers took those points and never looked back, as they never relinquished the lead in the first half. The lead reached its peak at 11, when Sears nailed a jumper with just over two minutes in the half. At the break, the Pioneers were up by eight and had a substantial +11 advantage in rebounding. Sears was the high scorer at the half with 12, and senior guard Alexis Peters had five assists.
Looking to extend their lead in the second half, the Pioneers came out strong and went on a 16-6 run, giving them a 52-33 advantage, which sealed the Mavericks fate. For the Pioneers, five players scored in double figures, including Sears, Peters, and sophomore guard Quanisha Ratley. Junior guard Chelsea Williams and senior forward Nijah LaCourt each eclipsed double-digit increments in rebounds and points, also giving them double-doubles. The Mavericks were led by senior guard Maria Nardulli and junior forward Tanayzha Augustine, who each had 15 points.
The Pioneers’ bench outscored the Maverick bench as a team; the Pioneers dominated the paint, leading the Mavericks 42-29 down low. The second half proved to be where the Pioneers took control as they improved their field goal percentage and were also able to shoot a higher percentage from down town.
On Saturday, Feb. 22, the Pioneers squared off against the Spartans of Saints Thomas Aquinas College (11-12) on Senior Day at the Pratt Recreational Center. LIU came out with the win. That victory made it seven in a row, and 14 of their last 15.
The Pioneers jumped out early and grabbed a seven point lead, thanks to a 9-2 run. The Pioneers dominated the first half as they held their opponents to 30 percent shooting from the field. Their terrific defense led to 11 points off of turnovers and to their 39-26 lead going into the break. For the Pioneers, junior guard Chelsea Williams had nine points, five of them from the charity stripe. The Spartans were led by freshman guard Kristen Olsen, who also had nine at the half.
Already up by 13, senior forward Shayna Gatling converted on a lay-up, giving them their largest lead of the game at 15. The Pioneers never relinquished the lead; in fact, the closest the Spartans came was seven points in the second half. Gatling had 10 points in the half, giving her 16 for the game, and she also grabbed 11 boards, giving her a double-double. Williams finished with 15 points and had six rebounds, while Peters scored 11 points, dished out six assists, and had two blocks. The Pioneer defense was suffocating as they had four blocked shots and eight steals. The Spartans had three players in double figures, led by Olsen and senior guard Briana Cook, but it was not enough. The Pioneers came out victorious by a score of 71-58.
As a team, the Pioneers pushed the tempo, outscoring the Spartans in fast break points as well as second chance baskets. This game was the seventh of the season in which the Pioneers held their opponents to under 60 points, and they also held the lead in this game for all but 40 seconds, showing their dominance from the opening tip.
Coach Moore and the Pioneers have their final two regular season matchups this week when they face the Molloy College Lions at home on Wednesday, Feb. 26, and the Queens College Knights on Saturday, March 1, on the road.