Photo by Curtis Ashley/ CCNY BeaverBeat
BY Jeff Weisinger
Senior Sports Editor
Coming into the 2015-16 season, nobody — and I mean nobody — expected the CCNY Women’s Basketball team to be as good as they have proven to be this year.
Coming off of a 5-21, injury-riddled, depth-lacking, nightmarish 2014-15 campaign, the Lady Beavers were ranked fifth in the CUNYAC preseason polls. A fair ranking considering nobody really knew what to expect from this team coming in — how would they respond from a dismal season where the expectations weren’t so much as high as they were realistic: finishing with a fifth seed, fairly healthy, at or just above a .500 record.
Instead, City shattered those expectations.
Healthy and determined to shock the world they finished the regular season with a 16-9 overall record, 11-5 in the CUNYAC, both of which their best in over a decade, clinching the fourth seed in the playoffs, their highest since the 2001-02 season. Head Coach Jamie Angeli was named the CUNYAC Coach of the Year and Tiara Brown was named to the CUNYAC All-Star team, leading the team in scoring (16.5 ppg), field-goal percentage (.586), and in rebounds (12.9 rebounds per game). She was also just one of four players on the team to play in all 25 games this season — Liz Durchhalter, Robin Daley, Debra Chan the other three.
But the sudden, dominant turnaround hasn’t been a one-woman show. Instead, it’s been a complete team-effort, from the starting-five all the way through the bench.
That depth and determination will be tested when they take on Lehman College in the program’s first conference semifinal game in 15 years on Wednesday night in the Nat Holman Gym.
The Lehman Lightning, the top seed in this year’s tournament, swept CCNY during the regular season, squeaking out a three-point, 83-80 win in overtime at Lehman on Jan. 30 and easily handling the Lady Beavers 69-58 on City’s senior day on Feb. 14.
However this is a different CCNY team compared to the one that lost to Lehman just 10 days ago.
The Lady Beavers rode into the postseason winning four of their last five with their lone loss coming against Lehman at home. CCNY won three of those four games by double digits, including a 23-point win at Baruch, a 20-point win at John Jay and a 16-point win in a comeback effort at Medgar Evers. City fought back from an early, four-point hole in the opening minutes in their quarterfinal matchup against York, rallying on a 17-0 run to end the first quarter en route to a 50-point blowout of the Lady Cardinals, the biggest playoff win for the program in 20 years.
Despite how hot this team is riding into the CUNYAC’s Final Four, a win against Lehman isn’t guaranteed at all.
When CCNY hosted Lehman on Valentine’s Day, the Lady Beaver kept a close eye on CUNYAC Player of the Year, senior Amely Del Rosario and senior Jennifer Navarro, the Lightning’s two top players, however it was Amani Lighbourne who stole the show, scoring a game-high 19 points in Lehman’s 11-point win. The Lightning had four score in double-digits that day.
Only Brown and Erika Richards scored in double-digits for CCNY in that matchup.
Should CCNY pull the upset Wednesday night, it’ll mark their first finals appearance in 20 years. They will also be just the second No. 4 seed to make the playoffs since the 1996-97 season. Hunter was the No. 4 seed in the CUNYAC Final two years ago.