Recap written by Eric Getzoff. Photo by Dawson Hicks - Kings Point Photography.
FARMINGDALE, N.Y. (Dec. 6, 2018) – The U.S. Merchant Marine Academy women's basketball team has never started a season 5-0 until now. The Mariners extended their undefeated streak by downing the Farmingdale State Rams in a Skyline Conference game Thursday night by the final score of 56-41. USMMA is now 5-0 overall (3-0 Skyline), while the loss drops FSC's record to 0-6 (0-3 Skyline).
The Mariners had three 4-1 starts in program history – back-to-back in 2006-07 and 2007-08 and then again in 2012-13. This is the first time they've won five games to start a season.
Merchant Marine was led by freshman Lauren Hunter (Tinley Park, Ill.), who had yet another double-double with a game-high 22 points on 8-of-12 shooting with six free throws. Hunter also had ten rebounds and dished out three assists.
Junior Kaleigh D'Arcy (White Plains, N.Y.) and sophomore Kiana Vega (El Paso, Texas) followed Hunter with nine points each, while junior Taylor Hightower (White Plains, Md.) had a great all-around game, scoring eight points, bringing down a game-high 12 rebounds and dishing out seven assists.
But the story for the Mariners wasn't the individual play - it was the team play. Merchant Marine held Farmingdale State to 26.3% shooting and out-rebounded the Rams, 48-33, which led to a 19-7 advantage for Merchant Marine in second-chance points. Four Mariners grabbed at least nine rebounds, with Hightower leading the way with 12, D'Arcy and Hunter with ten each, and nine for junior Shelby Peters (El Dorado Hills, Calif) – with four of those offensive.
The Mariners got off to a slow start and trailed 7-3 at the 8:17 mark of the first quarter. After Hunter made a layup and hit a free-throw, and Farmingdale State junior Nia Miller made a layup at 6:09, the score was 9-6 in favor of Farmingdale State. It stayed that way for the next 3.5 minutes.
Hunter's jump shot at 2:47 sparked a 13-2 run for Merchant Marine which lasted until 5:27 of the second quarter, giving the Mariners a 19-11 lead. After a jumper by FSC made it 19-13, that six-point margin was the closest the Rams would come to the Mariners the rest of the game.
The Mariners ended the second half on a 9-2 run and led 28-15 after the first 20 minutes. They outscored the Rams 13-4 in the second quarter.
Both teams traded baskets for most of the third quarter, with the Mariners entering the fourth quarter up 44-30. Merchant Marine spread its scoring around for most of the frame, with Hunter scoring six points, and Hightower and Vega adding four points apiece.
Merchant Marine's defensive dominance continued, as the Mariners held the Rams to one point from 2:44 of the third quarter to 4:22 of the fourth quarter, the lone point coming on a free-throw by Rams junior Christina Rayfield. Merchant Marine's largest lead was 13 points, 54-31, at 5:17 of the fourth quarter.
For the Rams, Nia Miller had a team-high 11 points and seven assists in 40 minutes of action, while senior Selena Lafranca and sophomore Alexis Hunter each scored eight points. Rayfield grabbed eight rebounds, while freshman Stacy Papantoniou had seven boards.
Up next for the Mariners is another Skyline Conference game against Mount St. Vincent at home Saturday, Dec. 8. Tipoff is scheduled for noon at the Liebertz Gym. Live stats and a live video feed of the game will be available with links on the USMMA Women's Basketball Schedule Page.
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