By Max Sass, Editor In Chief
Candice Bellocchio was planning on staying for a while at the CAA Championships. She had even unpacked all of her clothes.
So when fifth-seeded UNC Wilmington defeated her fourth-seeded Hofstra Pride, 94-87, in the quarterfinals at the Show Place Arena in Upper Marlboro, MD, Bellocchio was in shock. She didn't think this was how it was supposed to end.
"Absolutely not," Bellocchio said. "Not looking ahead, but we knew we were going to be here for a while. I even unpacked my clothes; they're in all the drawers. I did not expect this. We have nobody to blame but ourselves."
Hofstra coach Krista Kilburn-Steveskey agreed.
"I think that we're extremely in shock to be honest," Kilburn-Steveskey said.
The Pride (19-11) was led by 21 points and 10 rebounds from CAA first-team selection Shante Evans, but it was not enough as UNCW (20-11), led by sophomore guard Abria Trice's career-high 33 points, advances to face top-seeded Delaware in the semifinals Saturday.
Part of the shock comes from having defeated UNCW just 12 days earlier, in Hempstead, 66-55. Part also came from how physical Wilmington was, outrebounding Hofstra 44-31.
"They physically just outmanned us in that," Kilburn-Steveskey said. "That was just a disappointing statistic, 44 to 31. That's what we did so well, that's what Marie Malone did so well on senior night at our place, we rebounded really well and we weren't coming up with it tonight."
Despite the negative rebounding margin and a nine-point halftime deficit, the Pride had a quality shot to win and advance.
With 9:49 to play in the game, Bellocchio hit one free throw to tie the game, 66-66. Wilmington gained back a slim margin, but Hofstra only trailed by two, 80-78, with 4:04 to play.
"We had the game within our grips with seven minutes [to play] and we didn't execute at all down the stretch," Kilburn-Steveskey said.
Every time the Pride edged to within a basket, UNCW seemed to have an answer.
"That was a theme," Evans said. "On the court we kept telling ourselves we need to get a stop, we can't keep trading baskets."
Wilmington finished the game on a 14-9 run, putting the Pride away and potentially ending its season.
"You've got to take your hat off to Hofstra," Wilmington coach Cynthia Cooper-Dyke said. "They threw some different defenses at us, they played very physical in the second half. We were up to the challenge and I'm very proud of how my team played today."
Hofstra will now wait to hear from the Women's National Invitational Tournament selection committee regarding its chance to play more basketball this season.
"We will hopefully have basketball to play," Kilburn-Steveskey said. "We don't make that decision, so we have to control what we can control. You know how we feel right now. It's just been a puzzling thing the last few weeks with this squad and I can promise you one thing, it will be fixed. It will be fixed in this program; it will be completely fixed."
Nicole Capurso scored 18 points, Candace Bond had 17 points and 5 rebounds and Marie Malone chipped in with 12 points and five rebounds.
Sophomore guard Alisha Andrews scored 13 points, shooting 4-5 from three-point range, and added 4 assists.