Columbia’s historic season comes to an end in a heartbreaking loss at home against Seton Hall.

Levien Gymnasium was electric Monday night.

After a tense, back-and-forth battle between two stellar teams, it all came down to one shot. Trailing 78-75 with less than ten seconds to play, the Lions’ supporters who packed the stands to watch Columbia (25-7) take on Seton Hall (23-12) were all on their feet hoping for a miracle. And though junior Hannah Pratt’s potentially game-tying three-point attempt rimmed out just before time expired, and Seton Hall was the team celebrating their Regional Final victory on the court after the final buzzer, it was hard to not walk away smiling after last night’s contest.

After two years in which collegiate athletics were thoroughly upended as a result of the pandemic, from the Ivy League’s decision to not compete during the 2020-2021 school year, to postponed contests earlier this season due to variant surges across the country, last night’s WNIT Regional Final felt almost surreal. Even mere months ago, such an evening—in which the Columbia community came out in droves to support the history-making women’s basketball team—would have seemed impossible. Feeling the rush and excitement of the crowd felt like a culmination of sorts, a coming together of the University community after years of fragmentation and devastation wreaked by COVID-19.

Of course, it took a special team to make this all possible, and this season’s Lions were nothing short of special. Behind Head Coach and women’s basketball alumna Megan Griffith, Columbia had a landmark season, hitting milestone after milestone and breaking records too numerous to list. Before this season, the women’s basketball team had never won a postseason game. This year, they made it all the way to the Elite Eight of the WNIT, just a few key plays away from qualifying for the tournament’s semifinal.

From the opening tip, it was clear that this would be an exciting contest. Sharpshooter Abby Hsu’s three-pointer to open the game alleviated any worries that Columbia, a team that thrives from range, would repeat its performance from the previous matchup against Boston College, in which the Lions pulled off an improbable win despite shooting 0-20 on threes. In fact, Columbia’s three-point shooting was what kept them in this game. Both Seton Hall and Columbia got off to a fast start offensively, and after a frantic first quarter, the game was tied at 21.

After Columbia’s Carly Rivera hit a quick three to start the second quarter to give Columbia a 24-21 lead, Seton Hall responded with an offensive surge. A 10-2 scoring run by the Pirates set the Lions down 31-26, needing a bucket to not allow the game to slip away. Hannah Pratt knocked one in from deep to keep things close, bringing relief to the anxious crowd. Columbia’s dominance on the offensive glass, as well as Hsu’s 12 first-half points, kept this contest close heading into the break, with Seton Hall holding a 39-35 lead after two quarters. But it was clear that, if the Lions were to prevail and punch their ticket to the semifinal game, they would have to find a way to control Seton Hall’s standout guard Laurel Park-Lane, who put up 14 points in the first half.

Halftime Score: 39-35 Seton Hall

Columbia struck first coming out of the break. To start the third quarter, a flurry of buckets by Kaitlyn Davis propelled the Lions to a 13-3 run. Capping the run with 5:58 to play in the quarter was a breakaway layup from Davis, which ignited the Lions’ fans and brought the crowd to its feet. All the momentum in Levien Gymnasium was beginning to shift Columbia’s way. Seton Hall, facing a 48-43 deficit, called a desperately-needed time out to try to slow the Lions’ building momentum. The game did not slip away from the Pirates, as they regrouped coming out of the time out and went on a 13-2 run of their own. After the third, Seton Hall held a 56-50 advantage.

The fourth quarter was the definition of a nail-biter. A pair of three-pointers from freshman Kitty Henderson quickly erased Seton Hall’s lead and electrified the Lions’ supporters. Hannah Pratt hit her own pair of threes which gave Columbia a 64-62 lead with 7:40 left to play. The teams traded baskets for the rest of the quarter, the atmosphere becoming tenser as it was going down to the wire. With a minute to play, Abby Hsu hit a critical three-pointer to give Columbia a precarious 73-72 lead, and it felt like the Lions were on the verge of victory.

Seton Hall’s Park-Lane had other ideas. After drawing a foul, she marched confidently to the line and knocked down both free throws. Another Kitty Henderson basket gave Columbia a 75-74 advantage with just 35 seconds to play, but Park-Lane responded once again by drawing the foul and hitting two more clutch free throws. The Lions truly had no answer for Park-Lane, who led all scorers with 29 points, including a perfect 14-14 from the line. After two more Seton Hall free throws and Pratt’s missed three-point attempt, the game ended in a 78-75 Seton Hall victory.

Free throws did decide this one, as Columbia left a lot of opportunities at the line by shooting just 9-16, and Seton Hall never erred, putting up an impressive 20-20 record from the stripe. The Lions had four scorers in double figures, led by Henderson with 18 points. Hsu and Davis both put up 15 points, and Hannah Pratt added an impressive double-double off the bench, scoring 11 and grabbing 10 rebounds. 

Final Score: 78-75 Seton Hall

Monday’s loss brought Columbia’s landmark season to a heartbreaking end. The Lions finished with a 25-7 record, the most wins ever notched in program history. Though the run is now over, the team’s incredible season will hopefully be just the beginning of future success for the program. They will look to reload next year, as the team has a lot of young talent who will return next season and set their sights on capturing the program’s first Ivy League crown. Seton Hall advances to the WNIT semifinal on March 31, where they will compete against Middle Tennessee for a trip to the championship game.

Photo by Eli Knodell