There could not have been a better script for an opening game of what could be a very promising season for the Hofstra Pride women’s basketball team. With expectations at an all-time high, Hofstra treated the home crowd to a thrilling 65-63 victory over Navy on Friday.
After Navy led by one point and had possession with 34 seconds left, things seemed bleak for Hofstra to take the season opener.
But in the blink of an eye, a steal and fastbreak by Darius Faulk ultimately put Navy with the game-winning basket.
“I’m proud of these guys,” said Head Coach Krista Kilburn-Steveskey. “[We] showed fight, resilience, and maturity against a very good team.”
Hofstra got off to a slow start in their opening game despite the hype and hysteria at the Mack prior to tip-off.
Relentless fans heckled and hollered at Navy’s star forwards Sarita Condie and Taylor Dunham the entire game, sharing the same unyielding spirit Hofstra displayed when they found themselves trailing the Mids.
Yet, Navy’s own Sadie Condie who stole the show in the first half. Condie was the primary reason the Mids had Hofstra playing on their heels as she cashed 14 points leading to several mistakes on the court involving fouls and turnovers.
Hofstra was down but certainly not out. That fight was displayed early off the bench from Jakelle King-Gilchrist.
With Hofstra’s stars struggling in the first half and Navy’s Condie dominating action, King-Gilchrist came off the bench and asserted herself on the court. She had 15 points in the first 20 minutes of play that provided a 41-36 Hofstra lead into halftime.
Coach Kilburn-Steveskey believed King-Gilchrist was the difference maker. “She made the most of her time and really embraces that role,” she said.
King-Gilchrist’s performance off the bench truly defines how deep this roster is for Hofstra. Even on an off night the Pride found a way to win.
By any means, the first half was not what Hofstra desired despite having the lead. It was chaotic and filled with turnovers (six) and fouls (eight) which led to 10 extra points for Navy.
However, they went to the drawing board and designed another scheme to halt Condie and maximize Ashunae Durant and Darius Faulk’s offensive potential.
Although it was a difficult task, Durant made it her business to stay level headed. “It was rough, but I put it behind me, the game kept going, and the opportunity [to score] was there,” Durant said.
By doing so, Durant finished with 17 points, 13 boards and was a true catalyst in the season opening victory over Navy.
Lost in Durant’s offensive performance was her lockdown defense on Condie in the second half. “[I] just had to focus more and make her attempt tougher shots,” she said about defending Navy’s top scorer. It was a tale of two games, as Condie scored only three points in the second half en route to her total of 17.
“We figured we needed to throw some new defenses out there and switch to things we have been working on in practice,” said Coach Kilburn-Steveskey.
The game-changing moment came in the final quarter with the Pride trailing Navy 63-62. Sarita Condie, who lost her touch entirely in the second half, carried the ball past midcourt.
While directing the play with one hand and the ball dribbling in the other, Darius Faulk swooped in and stole the ball away from Condie. No fouls called. A sigh of relief was shared.
With an amped up crowd at their feet, Faulk banked a layup with under 14 seconds left in the game giving the Pride a lead they didn't relinquish.
“What can I do to help my team win this game?” Faulk said thinking prior to the steal that stole the game.
She had to steal the ball, bury a lay up, and lock down defensively and Faulk pulled off all three to help her team win game one of the season.
Hofstra dealt with adversity and made the necessary adjustments from their eight-point deficit in the first quarter to take the game away.
“We didn’t play the way we wanted to, but it was a complete team effort and we got the job done,” said Kilburn-Steveskey.
The Pride is next in action on Tuesday, November 17, against the Stony Brook Seawolves at 7 p.m. in a battle of two Long Island rivals.
“We will improve on some little things and play the tempo we want to play,” said Kilburn-Steveskey, “I am very proud of these guys.”