Philadelphia, Pa. - The NYIT women's basketball team put a scare into the top-seeded team in the East Region on Friday. However, the eighth-seeded Bears' season ultimately came to an end with a 46-41 loss at host USciences in the opening round of the NCAA Tournament.
NYIT finished with a 23-9 record — tied for the second-most wins in program history, and three wins shy of matching the program record set by the 2015-16 squad that reached the Sweet 16.
The defeat also ended the senior seasons of captains Tiara Place and Madison Strippoli, although Strippoli was limited to three games in November due to a season-ending labrum injury and should regain a season of eligibility.
"I'm proud of the ladies," Place said. "This, probably, has been the best season since I've been here. We got an ECC championship out of this. I hope next year to see them back here again."
Despite shooting 30.4 percent from the field in the first half, including an uncharacteristic 0-for-6 from three-point range, NYIT trailed only 19-17 at halftime. And although they did not lead after intermission, the Bears pulled within 33-31 thanks to a jumper from Taylor Tripptree and a three-pointer from Shalie Frierson early in the fourth quarter.
In fact, Meg Knollmeyer had a three-point attempt for the lead that rimmed out with 8 minutes, 1 second remaining in the game.
NYIT had been 0-for-11 from behind the arc until Frierson's trey.
"I thought early on there might be some jitters," coach Kenny Parham said. "The first shots were a little awry. I just think it took them some time to settle in."
Still, NYIT undeniably had a positive season.
The program earned its first-ever postseason championship by virtue of winning the East Coast Conference tournament title with a win against LIU Post in the final. Knollmeyer returned to first-team All-ECC form after missing 2017-18 with a torn ACL. And freshmen Ketsia Athias and point guard Zoe Amalbert burst onto the scene, with Athias setting the program's single-season record for blocks.
Athias had a double-double (13 points and 12 rebounds) to lead the Bears in both categories in her NCAA Tournament debut.
"We held them to 46 points," Parham said. "I think they average close to 70 a game. We had a good game plan as far as how to guard them. But they execute. They move the ball well and have a lot of perimeter shooters."
Said USciences coach Jackie Hartzell: "They played good defense and that caused us to not shoot the ball particularly well."
Provided by the NYIT Sports Information Department.