Graduate guard Kaela Hilaire took in a roaring standing ovation from the crowd, while sat on a rose-colored bench surrounded by her teammates who were equally congratulating her. Hilaire managed a quick acknowledgment for the 1,000-point occasion, an occasion that was four years in the making.
An otherwise ugly day from Hilaire (2-of-17 from the field) turned rosy as Stony Brook (26-3, 14-2) fought the Albany Great Danes (9-20, 5-11) to a 53-44 victory on Saturday, Feb. 29 and ended their 2-game skid after a historical 25-1 start.
The Seawolves struggled mightily from the field (17-of-58), but allowed the least points since late January and shot decently from the foul line (17-of-26) to cruise ahead. The first half was putrid offensively for both teams, as they both shot under 30 percent from the field and landed only two 3-pointers combined. The saving grace for both squads came from the foul line with Albany 4-of-4 and Stony Brook 8-of-11.
Coming out of the break, neither team exploded offensively. While both teams fared better, free throws remained the source of scoring for both teams. Both sides of the court fared poorly in knocking down jumpers, but fortunately for Stony Brook, they made just enough.
An Albany layup with 1:25 left in the fourth cut the Seawolves’ lead to seven, but a quick layup from junior forward Oksana Gouchie-Provencher and a free throw make from Hilaire sealed the victory with 54 seconds left.
Hilaire, graduate forward Cheyenne Clark, redshirt-junior forward Kina Smith, junior guard Hailey Zeise and senior forward Kyra Dixon were celebrated in a pre-game Senior Night ceremony where they were handed roses and took pictures with family.
“[I’m] really proud of our group,” head coach Caroline McCombs said in an interview with The Statesman. “Coming back after being on the road and enjoying senior day, I think they were definitely playing for their seniors today. That’s something we talked about with it being Senior Day and Alumni Day, playing for all those seniors and for all those women that have come before us.”
Hilaire had plenty to say about her relatively short time at Stony Brook and her 1,000-point milestone.
“This is the most fun I have ever had,” Hilaire said. “A lot of the time you’re stressing out about how you play and stuff like that. But here I’ve just been able to play basketball. I have fun with my teammates day in and day out.”
Hilaire went over 2,000 points scored in high school, becoming only the 22nd player to do so on Long Island. After playing her first three years of college basketball with Seton Hall, she appropriately came home to hit a similar milestone.
“The [shot] that I cherish the most is the three that I hit against Binghamton with a few seconds left that put us up,” Hilaire said. “Just the way the fans reacted and the atmosphere in the gym and the bench, that was the best part.”
Junior forward India Pagan’s status is still unknown for Wednesday, with the forward sporting a boot on the sideline for the game. It is possible Stony Brook is just resting Pagan for the playoffs, but that remains speculative.
Stony Brook faces a rematch with the Albany Great Danes in the quarterfinals of the America East Playoffs on Wednesday, March 4 at 6:31 p.m. As the No. 1 seed, Stony Brook will have home court advantage in every round of the America East Tournament.