By Kevin Carroll — SPORTS EDITOR
The Hofstra women’s basketball team’s incredible run through the WNIT came to a premature end on Monday night, falling to Florida Gulf Coast 61-46 in the quarterfinals at Alico Arena.
After a stretch which saw the Pride stomp on Harvard, before ousting two power-conference foes in Villanova and Virginia, it was the Eagles of FGCU, a 30-win juggernaut out of the Atlantic Sun, who would put a stop to Hofstra’s championship aspirations.
Darius Faulk led the Pride with 10 points and 10 rebounds in her last game in a Hofstra uniform. Anjie White, a fellow senior, added 10 points and eight boards.
However, the Pride just couldn’t keep up with the Eagles on offense, with Kaneisha Atwater leading the way for FGCU with 19 points. Whitney Knight added a double-double, with 16 points and 14 rebounds.
The Pride also got in its own way on the offensive end of the floor, shooting just 29.3 from the field, and only a measly 1-16 from beyond the arc. In addition, the Pride was outrebounded by Gulf Coast 52-35, and outassisted 13-5.
Despite those woes, and despite the odds being stacked against Hofstra from the get-go, the Pride refused to say die, hanging tough the whole way through, even when the Eagles’ lead was just too much to overcome.
Heading into the third quarter, Hofstra found itself on the wrong end of a sixteen-point deficit, with all the momentum favoring FGCU as the second half began. A bucket from Taylor Gradinjan extended the lead to 18, FGCU’s largest of the game, with nine minutes left in the third quarter.
But the Pride wasn’t going anywhere. White scored the next six points to cut the Eagles’ lead to 12. After a Gulf Coast three-pointer, Hofstra ran off another mini-run, making it a 43-34 game midway through the third.
A couple of free throws later, courtesy of Asia Jackson and Krystal Luciano, and the Pride had pulled to within just five points of the lead, the closest Hofstra had been to the lead since the first quarter.
An Atwater layup made it a seven-point game heading into the fourth, but Hofstra had outscored the Eagles 20-11 in the third, and had itself in prime position to overtake FGCU.
Unfortunately, it wasn’t meant to be.
Gulf Coast reasserted its position in the final quarter, stretching the lead back to 52-40 before the Pride could even get a basket. For the rest of the way, the Pride’s shooting struggles resurfaced at the worst possible time. Hofstra was held scoreless for the last 6:22 of the contest, only mustering six points total in the fourth quarter, the final quarter of Hofstra’s season.
Eventually, a three-pointer and a free throw from Knight would make it a 61-46 FGCU lead with just over a minute to play. There would be no more scoring for either team after that, as the final horn sounded and, with it, Hofstra’s remarkable season came to an end.
The Pride finished the season with a record of 25-9 in head coach Krista Kilburn-Steveskey’s tenth season at the helm.
This season was the school’s second 25-win season under Kilburn-Steveskey, and the first since the Pride went 26-8 in the 2006-07 season. This was the Pride’s second trip to the WNIT quarterfinals under Kilburn-Steveskey.
Faulk, White, Asia Jackson, and Jakelle King-Gilchrist all played their final games as members of the Pride on Monday night.
Jackson, who had been hampered by injuries since the end of the regular season, scored two points. King-Gilchrist, the team’s leading scorer in the WNIT after coming off the bench for most of the season, scored four points.
Florida Gulf Coast improved to an astonishing 32-5 with Monday’s victory, and will move on to host the University of Michigan in the WNIT semifinals.