The Adelphi women’s basketball team began their season with a loss at the hands of NYIT.
On Friday night, they weren’t about to let the Bears end it.
Sierra Clark dazzled in the first round of the NCAA Women’s Basketball Division II East Regional with 23 points, 15 rebounds (seven offensive), three assists and three steals in No. 1 Adelphi’s 64-47 home victory over No. 8 NYIT.
When asked if the Nov. 11 defeat to NYIT was added motivation entering this matchup, Clark only pointed toward the big picture.
“Our motivation is to win a national championship,” Clark said.
Adelphi coach Missy Traversi also looked forward. “I’ll be honest with you, I didn’t look at the game film,” Traversi said. “We are a completely different team. We didn’t even know each other. We had no understanding of how we’d work together. So that really wasn’t a concern of mine.”
Adelphi (27-4) earned an automatic bid as the Northeast-10 Conference champions. The Panthers last qualified in 2015 and came up short against American International in the Northeast-10 quarterfinals last season, 94-83.
NYIT (18-12), hailing from the East Coast Conference, earned an at-large bid as a No. 8 seed following a 56-53 loss to Bridgeport in the ECC final last Sunday.
After a somewhat sluggish first quarter in which they trailed 14-13, the Panthers began to create separation in the final minutes of the second. Sierra Schrader knocked down a three-pointer from the left wing to cap off an 11-3 Adelphi run with eight seconds to go and give the Panthers a 32-23 advantage at the break.
Clark set the tone in the first half as she lived in the low-post and put up 12 points and six rebounds. She helped anchor the Adelphi defense as well, which allowed NYIT to shoot just 35.8 percent from the field.
Calli Balfour drained a three-pointer with 54 seconds remaining in the third to give Adelphi a 15-point cushion entering the fourth. Similar to Clark, Balfour was also a force for the Panthers with totals of 19 points (8-for-13 shooting), nine rebounds, four assists and four steals.
Clark converted a layup with about seven minutes left, giving the Panthers a 54-37 lead. NYIT received 17-point efforts from both Nina Vukosavljevic and Margaret Knollmeyer but was unable to cut the deficit back down to single digits.
Friday night’s game marked the second NCAA Division II Tournament appearance in program history for NYIT. The Bears made their first trip last season and won two games before being eliminated.
Despite a first-round exit, NYIT coach Kenny Parham remained optimistic about his team’s season.
“I think overall, our season was a huge success. We’re very happy about making the NCAA Tournament.”
Meanwhile, Adelphi will host No. 5 Molloy in the second round at 7:30 p.m. on Saturday.
“We’ll go to bed and dream of buckets, as I always say,” Traversi said.