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Staff writer

St. Mary’s College 96, CCNY 40

CCNY 23 17St. Mary’s 49 47CCNY: Fisher 15, Williams 13, Lee 4, Pressley 2, Pompilio 2, Nelson 2, Nyamekye 2St. Mary’s: Murray 18, Pruden 12, Sham 10, Smith 10, Wilkins 9, Petrisko 8, Pearson 8, Vagnono 6, Payne 4, McClain 4, Truskey 2, Hook 2, Wallace 2, Jones 1Free throws: CCNY 20-27 (Lee 4-4, Fisher 7-12, Williams 5-7); St. Mary’s 6-9 (Payne 2-2, Sham 3-4)3-point goals: CCNY 0; St. Mary’s 8 (Murray 4, Vagnoni 2, Wilkins, Sham)

The St. Mary’s College of Maryland Seahawks women’s basketball team already led visiting The City College of New York 49-23 at halftime of its home and season-opening contest on Saturday afternoon.

But even with the 16-point lead, St. Mary’s senior Joanna Murray knew defense was a must, evidenced by her deflecting a CCNY in-bounds pass to start the second half.

It was that deflection and that defensive effort, despite the lead, that helped Murray and the Seahawks force 42 CCNY turnovers, 26 of which were St. Mary’s steals, en route to a 96-40 victory.

“All of preseason and for a month straight, we knew that was going to be one of our biggest things to focus on,” Murray explained. “Our offense is going to come … so we really have been, this whole month, focused on defense, defense and defense.”

It was the defensive effort and a flurry of steals and lay-up baskets from second-year head coach Crystal Gibson’s squad that helped pave the way for a 10-0 run early in the first half and an 11-0 run later in the half in building the 26-point halftime lead.

“I was very impressed with the defense,” Gibson said. “We went to a full-court, man-to-man, which increased our intensity and made everybody work to be on the same page. Deflections are one of the things that we were looking at and we got way more deflections than we got steals.”

Off of the bench, it was senior Pui Sham who led the Seahawks with five steals in the victory.

Sham also scored 10 points, one of four Seahawks in double figures, including 18 points from Murray, 12 from Sophie Pruden and 10 from Jasmine Smith.

“I think that we were aggressive,” Sham said of the defense. “I am very proud that we kept our intensity for the entire 40 minutes.”

On where the defense can take the Seahawks, success-wise, Sham added, “I think it could get us very far. We always can keep working, but I think it can get us very far this year.”

Gibson added, “First game of the year with our defense looking that good, the sky is the limit for us. It’s definitely going to be about consistency. … This is just the beginning right now, so hopefully we just get better.”

Murray’s 18 points also doubled as a game-high for points scored, which included the senior shooting 4-for-8 from three-point range.

“I knocked down a couple of them,” Murray said.

Murray scored eight of St. Mary’s 13 points including two of her three-point makes in a 13-0 scoring run over the course of two minutes midway through the second half that took the lead to 68-31.

“It was good because we have been practicing for so long and for us to get out there and kind of release our energy on somebody else was good,” Gibson added on the win.

The Seahawks improved to 2-0 after a two-point, 73-71 victory over Rosemont (Pa.) on Sunday afternoon also hosted by the Seahawks.

Senior guard Jasmine Jones led the Seahawks with a team-high 18 points and Sham (17 points) and Murray (14) were the other double-digit point-getters for the Seahawks in the Rosemont win.

Again, it was defense that played a key factor in a St. Mary’s victory, forcing 31 turnovers and totaling 22 steals.

The Seahawks traveled to Meredith College (N.C.) for its first road game of the season.

The contest finished too late for inclusion into this edition.

Men’s hoops split

The St. Mary’s College of Maryland Seahawks men’s program split its two games in its weekend-tournament appearance in the Hoopsville National Invitational Classic in Owings Mills.

A 65-52 loss on Saturday to Catholic of Washington D.C. was followed by a 59-49, bounce-back victory over Randolph-Macon College (Va.)

Seahawks senior guard Devin Spencer led all scorers in the win with 18 points.

Nick LaGuerre and Donn Hill added 11 and 10 points, respectively.

LaGuerre and Hill led the Seahawks in scoring with 13 and 10, respectively, in the loss to Catholic.

jmccray@somdnews.com