The Stony Brook women’s basketball team went just far enough last season to give the players extra motivation to go even further, and the belief that they can get there. By the time the team hits its stride in March, the Seawolves assert they will be ready to take the proverbial next step.
“We came up just short, but we were right there,” said Christa Scognamiglio, the highest scorer (9.0) among returnees from a team that lost to Maine by three points in an America East semifinal. “It just gives us that much more inspiration to put in the work to get there again and win it.”
Point guard Kori Bayne-Walker, an America East all-rookie player when Stony Brook reached the conference final in 2014, said, “We know how competitive it is. We worked hard last year, but I think we’re working harder this year. We’re different. We’re faster-paced, we’re trying new things, attacking the rim more.”
This is how different they are: Rather than revolving around the post, which they did last season with senior high scorer Brittany Snow, they are a backcourt-first team now. Coach Caroline McCombs will depend on Scognamiglio, who had 14 points in the conference quarterfinal win over Hartford, along with Bayne-Walker and Davion Wingate (an all-rookie team member and daughter of former Georgetown star David Wingate) to lead teammates such as 6-3 center Ayshia Baker, a junior college transfer from Florida.
“There is just more confidence for those returners,’’ McCombs said. “There’s also the understanding that we can’t take any days off, you always have something to prove and we need to play with a chip on our shoulder.”
They also need to overcome the loss of blue-chip forward Ogechi Anyagaligbo, who transferred to Kentucky. But in the ebb and flow of college ball — players arrive, players leave — the Seawolves have added Long Islander Lauren Williams, who sat out last season after transferring.
“I’m very grateful to be able to play again. Sitting on the sidelines gave me a different perspective. I definitely learned about court vision, about doing all the little things,” the former North Babylon star said. “It’s almost surreal. It’s like everything has come full circle. I’m definitely glad to be back home, to play in front of my family.”
Her mom, Tracy, and other Stony Brook fans will get to see their team compete at the top level on Nov. 18 when the Seawolves host Syracuse, which reached the NCAA championship game this past March. It will be a chance for them to make progress.
And if they ever need a reminder of the possibility of progress, they can lean on their new assistant coach, Dan Rickard, who helped Steve Pikiell build the men’s team into a Big Dance entrant. “I understand how good a program they built here,” McCombs said, adding that Rickard’s transition will be seamless. “Basketball is basketball.”
Three to watch
KORI BAYNE-WALKER Sr. G
An injury cost her 10 games last season and kept her from repeating as a second-team all-conference player. She is healthy now and is expected to direct a guard-oriented offense. “She’s a tremendous floor leader,” coach Caroline McCombs said. Bayne-Walker’s 341 assists, including a career-high 10 against Morgan State last December, are second most in team history.
CHRISTA SCOGNAMIGLIO Sr. G
She’s the team leader in three-point field goals, steals and, according to McCombs, energy. “She plays as hard as anyone I have ever coached,” McCombs said. “She goes hard every day. It doesn’t matter if it’s just practice.” Scognamiglio recently was one of 80 students nationally chosen for an Athlete Leadership conference hosted by the Women’s Sports Foundation.
LAUREN WILLIAMS Jr. G
A journalism major, Williams would love any full-circle story like hers: In February 2014, she had 12 points for North Babylon in the Suffolk Class AA final. After an injury-shortened first season at Florida Atlantic (where she shot 40 percent from three-point range) and a year of sitting out as a transfer, she is back home — in Suffolk and on the court.
Nov. 11 at Iona 7 p.m.
Nov. 14 Hofstra 7 p.m.
Nov. 18 Syracuse 7 p.m.
Nov. 22 Columbia 7 p.m.
Nov. 26 at Manhattan 2 p.m.
Nov. 30 at St. Bonaventure 5:30 p.m.
Dec. 4 at LIU Brooklyn 2 p.m.
Dec. 11 at Central Connecticut 2 p.m.
Dec. 16 Molloy 7 p.m.
Dec. 20 vs. Florida A&M (Florida Sunshine Classic) 5:30 p.m.
Dec. 21 vs. Indiana (Florida Sunshine Classic) 7:45 p.m.
Dec. 30 Cornell 1 p.m.
Dec. 31 Missouri-Kansas City 1 p.m.
Jan. 4 at New Hampshire 11 a.m.
Jan. 7 at Albany 2 p.m.
Jan. 14 Maine 1 p.m.
Jan. 16 UMass-Lowell 2 p.m.
Jan. 19 at Hartford 7 p.m.
Jan. 22 Binghamton 2 p.m.
Jan. 25 at UMBC noon
Jan. 28 at Vermont 2 p.m.
Feb. 1 New Hampshire 5 p.m.
Feb. 4 Albany 2 p.m.
Feb. 6 at UMass-Lowell 7 p.m.
Feb. 12 at Maine 1 p.m.
Feb. 15 Hartford noon
Feb. 18 at Binghamton 4 p.m.
Feb. 23 UMBC 7 p.m.
Feb. 26 Vermont 2 p.m.