April 2, 2022 

How Seton Hall can clinch an historic WNIT title

Pirates are playing with a chip on their shoulder

Seton Hall head coach Tony Bozzella spoke frankly with the media after his team’s 64-55 loss to Villanova in the BIG EAST conference tournament semifinals.

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“When you watch Seton Hall play, yes, our [NET Ranking] wasn’t great, not because of anything other than we started off slow because of COVID and because of injuries… You want to look at my non-league wins versus Villanova non-league? They don’t compare. We beat Princeton. They didn’t,” Bozzella said. “I’m telling you there’s not a bigger supporter here for Villanova than Tony Bozzella. I’m on the committee, regional committee. I talk about Villanova. I do everything.”

“But to have us not respected and not brought up in numerous meetings, numerous conversations within the league and within the national media is disgusting. And we took it as a chip. I thank them.”

The Pirates certainly appear to be playing with a chip on their shoulder. The scrappy underdogs have now won 16 of their last 18 games and have advanced to the program’s fist-ever WNIT finals.

Trailing by four points with just 23 seconds left in regulation in the WNIT semifinal game against Middle Tennessee, Seton Hall refused to let their historic season come to an end. Lauren Park-Lane completed a three-point play with 17 seconds left, cutting the Middle Tennessee lead to 73-72. Sophomore Amari Wright then stole the ball to secure possession back for the Pirates.

Seton Hall returned to the court after a timeout and Andra Espinoza-Hunter assisted senior Sidney Cooks on the go-ahead, game-winning layup with 2.4 seconds remaining. The Pirates would win 74-73.

Cooks is cookin’

You may recall that Pirates senior Sidney Cooks assisted the game-winning shot to Mya Bembry in Seton Hall’s epic victory over Creighton in the BIG EAST quarterfinals. On Thursday, she was the hot-hand that clinched the game for Seton Hall, scoring the game-winning bucket with seconds remaining in the game.

On the night, Cooks had a game-high 28 points (10-13 from the field) including a perfect 4-4 from behind the arc. She also added seven rebounds, two assists and a block.

As is typical with this Pirates team, though, it was an overall team effort. Point guard sensation Park-Lane contributed 16 points, 10 assists, five rebounds and two blocks. Espinoza-Hunter added 13 points, six rebounds, three assists and three steals.

The Pirates shot 50% from three-point range (10-20) while holding the Raiders to 33.3% from behind the arc.

Finals Preview

Get your television set for today’s match-up for all the marbles between Seton Hall and South Dakota State. The WNIT final begins at 3 p.m. ET, today, Saturday, April 2nd, and will be nationally televised on CBS Sports Network. You don’t want to miss this match-up.

The Pirates travel to South Dakota State’s home court at Frost Arena for the chance to win the WNIT title. South Dakota State has enjoyed home-court advantage throughout the WNIT tournament and most-recently defeated a talented UCLA team 62-59.

The Jackrabbits are a well-coached team led by All-Summit League Coach of the Year Aaron Johnston. The program is 28-9 this season and clinched a share of the Summit League regular season title with a 17-1 record in conference play.

Much like the Pirates, the Jackrabbits have a balanced offensive rotation, with four players currently averaging double-figure scoring. This game could come down to who has the hot hand and which team is able to get the most second-chance points.

By clinching a WNIT title, Seton Hall can complete their quest to prove to the country they are a serious contender. Tune in to watch if the Pirates can make some more history.

Written by Tee Baker

Tee has been a contributor to The Next since March Madness 2021 and is currently a contributing editor, BIG EAST beat reporter and curator of historical deep dives.

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