Hornets overcome early deficit, win late against Saint Mary’s


Freshman forward No. 23 Hallie Gennett shoots the ball against the Cal State Northridge Matadors.

Satchi Hover

The Hornets’ women’s basketball team pulled off a thrilling upset against then undefeated Saint Mary’s at Colberg Court Thursday.     

Sacramento State (5-1) beat the Gaels 94-92.

Saint Mary’s (7-1) had entered the contest as one of 23 undefeated teams in the nation before falling to the Hornets     

Sac State head coach Bunky Harkleroad expressed his thoughts on the close game and his team’s effort.

“We did get down early and fought back,” Harkleroad said. “Fortunately we were able to force them to make some mistakes and claw our way back into it.”

The Hornets got off to a slow start as they found itself down 37-21 with 6:50 to go in the first half, but rallied behind a 21-9 run to close out the period.

Junior point guard Fantasia Hilliard scored 10 of her 21 points in the first period and dished out 10 assists before fouling out with 1:44 left in the game.

Hilliard said her team had something to prove as it squared off against a team of Saint Mary’s caliber.

“They came in confident and already thought they had it, so we played with a chip on our shoulder,” Hilliard said. “We stuck to the game plan and made sure we executed.”

The Gaels opened the second half with a 10-4 run to push the lead to 56-46 but the Hornets responded once again with a 17-7 run of its own tying the game at 63-63 with 12:07 left.

Sac State took its first lead :34 seconds later on a free throw from junior guard Takara Burse to make it 64-63.

Hornets redshirt junior guard Andrea Chenier provided a boost in the second half, scoring 15 of her 19 points while converting on 5-6 3-point attempts.

“Saint Mary’s is a great team, so for us that’s a big win,” Chenier said. “In the first half I was not shooting well, but coach told me to keep shooting and then the shots started falling.”  

Saint Mary’s senior guard and leading scorer, Jackie Nared, converted on a deep 3-point attempt with 1:02 remaining to bring her team within two at 94-92.

Hornets freshman guard Gigi Hascheff missed a layup opportunity in the next possession giving the Gaels a chance to tie or possibly win the game.

Saint Mary’s head coach Paul Thomas optioned to let the game play out by not calling a timeout with :29 seconds left on the clock.

The Gaels were unable to get a shot off by the end of the possession and the final buzzer sounded, securing the victory for the Hornets.  

Hilliard said she was proud of the way her team played toward the end and expressed her thoughts on the close ending.

“This game was going to be back and forth, so it didn’t really bother us,” Hilliard said. “We just wanted to make sure that we just kept pushing forward.”

Nared, who came in averaging 23.3 points per game for Saint Mary’s, scored 30 points on 10-13 shooting and collected 12 rebounds. Gaels senior forward Danielle Mauldin tallied 24 points and 14 rebounds.

As a team, the Hornets shot 38.9 percent overall and 32.7 percent from 3-point range. The Gaels converted on 60.3 percent of their field goals and 63.6 percent from 3-point.

Sac State will be back at home Saturday afternoon when it hosts San Jose State (4-4) and the return of former Hornets head coach, Jamie Craighead.