Jersey City, NJ - She was in a position considered ideal. Kendra Faustin, the Niagara head coach, had a few of her most dependable free throw shooters getting their chances to ice a close game.
"We were one of six the last 18 seconds ," Faustin later lamented.
Despite the misfiring from the charity stripe, Niagara survived a miss on a last second three point attempt by St. Peter's, to earn a hard fought 54-52 victory at the Yanitelli Center on Thursday.
For Faustin in her fifth year at the helm, the victories and progression, short or long term, never seem to come easy. In 2009-10, Niagara was picked at the bottom of the MAAC in pre-season polls. They were coming off a 1-17 MAAC campaign and little was expected. The Purple Eagles surprised earning a 9-9 conference record and even getting a regular season win over league champion and power, Marist. The job she turned in earned Faustin, in her third year at the school, MAAC Coach of the Year honors. The next season saw a bottoming out to 1-29 and winless in conference. The injuries were monumental as the personable mentor was minus three starters.
"Coming off 2010, I thought we could build on what we did," she said following the win over St. Peter's. "The injuries wiped us out to the point we were almost at square one. This season we are where we were about two years ago. No doubt last year really set us back in a big way."
Still, she remains upbeat and continues to work daily on the floor, in recruiting or in any capacity, to improve the program.
To date, Niagara is 8-15, 5-6 in the MAAC. There are some good young players on board. Kayla Stroman, a junior guard, leads in scoring at 10.1 points per game. She scored 11 against St. Peter's. Lauren Gatto, is the next leading scorer. The 6-2 sophomore center checks in at 9.7 per game. The game's leading scorer and a player who seems to be making more of an impact each night out is Meghan McGuinness. A 5-10 freshman guard and New Jersey native, McGuinness has a nice outside touch and the ability to make a penetration move. She scored 22 points and was 5 of 6 from beyond the arc.
Niagara enjoyed a 15 point lead with just under five minutes to play. St. Peter's got back in it by utilizing pressure defense and creating a little chaos. That forced Niagara into a fast paced game and seemed to ignite what was a stagnant offense for St. Peter's.
‘We were happy to hold on and get this win," Faustin said. "St. Peter's does have some talented kids, they play very hard and, forget their record, no one in the conference looks forward to playing them."
Possessions: Niagara 68 St. Peter's 69
Offensive efficiency : Niagara79 St. peter's 75
Jynae Judson and Kristal Edwards paced St. Peter's with 11 points each. St. Peter's is now2-19 overall (2-8 in the MAAC).
Niagara shot only 36% eFG percentage (St. Peter's was 44%). Purple Eagles scored only four field goals the last sixteen minutes. They did enjoy a significant 41-29% edge in offensive rebounding percentage. Ali Morris and Shy Britton of Niagara paced the game individual rebound totals with 8 each.
Turnovers were extremely problematic for both teams. Niagara had a TO rate of 28% while St. Peter's checked in at a percentage point higher, 29%.
Frustrating late game sequence for St. Peter's coach Stephanie DeWolfe occurred twice in those last 18 seconds. Twice Niagara missed both shots of double bonus free throws only to secure the offensive rebound each time. In the midst of a long season, things like that just seem to happen with greater frequency.