Gaels hold off Saints

Chris Chambers

Just the Facts, Ma'am: The Gaels' dynamic duo of Joy Adams and Damika Martinez each put up 22 points in a 86-80 win over Siena that stayed close to the finish. Adams added 11 rebounds; the Gaels also got 18 points and seven assists from Aleesha Powell. Siena was led by the game-high 31 points of Kanika Cummings. Meghan Donohue had 12 pointsa nd 14 rebounds for the Saints, who owned their offensive glass. For perils, late arrivals, bodily fluids, bad calls, stomping the bleachers, and rain, join your intrepid and damp bogger blogger after the jump.

As the year wraps up, with more games than you can shake a stick at, it's time to see some old friends. Iona's schedule has not been convenient for a couple of Johnnies, so we were bound and determined to make it out to Hynes for this game against Siena. (The conflicts are bad. The next home game I can get to is against Marist. Which is Senior Day.)

Whoever put on "Meet Me at the Altar", I approve your musical taste. It weirds out my husband when I sing along, but I don't particularly care.

It's cold and raining, which I do not approve of. It was so nice yesterday that I was sweating in my coat, so I left the coat home today, so of course I'm freezing today. Mother Nature, we need to have a long talk about these mood swings.

"Changez", too. Loving the mix here. Hey, dude, can you usurp the lousy DJ at St. John's games? At least you have good taste, if we have to have a DJ of some variety.

Attendance is rather sparse right now, but it's winter break. I'm not surprised. The Colonial a few rows in front of us is a bit of a surprise, though. And there's a Blue Hen across the court. What the hell?

Games aren't quite as much fun to scream at if you don't have anyone to scream with, and we have a good rapport with Damika Martinez's family. I guess we're going on our own, then.

Okay, music man, I approve your taste, but I think you need to extend your playlist slightly. You shouldn't be getting repeats after half an hour.

Iona's doing that thing where they come on and off multiple times, and it's kind of ridiculous, to the point where they don't know when they're supposed to do the big run-up and when they just run.

At halftime, it's 36-all, and the defensive intensity has been seriously lacking for Iona. I suspect some of it may be a certain unwillingness to take contact when Siena's playing like they want to be on the hockey team, but the defense has been lacking and the ball movement has been lagging. Doesn't help that the Gaels' point guard, Haley D'Angelo, is out with the flu. No, really. Not flu-like symptoms.

The Gaels came up big in the end, but there are still a lot of problems that need to be addressed.

Siena plays very tough and very physical. I'm pretty sure I don't like them. There's a hockey edge to them, and while I know they're upstate and in hockey country, there's a limited amount of checking I can stand in basketball. We don't have boards to properly check people into, anyway. Ida Krogh was the worst offender in that regard; it was clear that she was there for the sole and express purpose of gooning. The form on her shot was awful, and she was at her best (or "best") when she was smacking people around. Emia Willingham came up with some big plays near the end of the game, when Siena was right back in it. Siena ran their bench players in and out a lot, so it's hard for me to get a handle on who did what, but I remember a lot of frenetic trapping, especially in the corners by the midcourt line (which isn't technically a orner, I suppose, but in the halfcourt sense, it is). I think Allison Mullings was in on a lot of the traps, but I admit to being distracted by her very wild hair. It's easy to be sure that someone's out there when you recognize their hair, which is not the most polite of statements but is distressingly accurate. I do strive for accuracy.

Kanika Cummings was very impressive on the offensive side of the ball. It seemed like wheneer we tried to get a "DE-FENSE!" chant going in the Iona partisans' section, she would answer with a bucket, or by drawing a foul, or by scoring a bucket and drawing a foul. She single-handedly kept Siena afloat for most of the game. Meghan Donohue showed a lot of promise, even as a freshman- she had a resounding block and nice moves around the basket. She never let up on the boards, and she came up with a lot of the rebounds that were group-forced away from Joy Adams. Siena had a knack for working together in groups of two or three for rebounds and loose balls. Clara Solé Anglada seemed to throw a lot of shots at the basket without any interest in making sure that they actually went into the basket. She had a clean break that she utterly blew on a bad take. Tehresa Coles got into early foul trouble, which she never really got out of and which ended up knocking her out of the game. Ciara Stewart didn't make an immediately visible impact, but she was a big part of the trapping defense that slowed Iona's offense down.

Aaliyah Robinson kept a clear head and came up with some big threes when her team needed her. Cassidee Ranger was also back to her old perch in the corners, which is where she fits best. Trying to use her as a post was a bad idea. Spencer Gray was mostly in for defensive purposes, as part of an offense-defense switch with Damika Martinez, and she and Aleesha Powell teamed up on a couple of nice defensive stops. She's impressed me with her defense as a freshman.

Christina Rubin bombed threes from the corners and made good plays on the ball. I was pleasantly surprised- this is the first I've seen of her in extended minutes, as she was buried on the bench last year. Sabrina Jeridore looked like the minutes without a reserve post were starting to get to her, especially late in the game when she was all but letting rebounds bounce off her hands. To be fair, at the same time she was also starting to show her shot-blocking ability again, but she needs to rebound, especially since she's the only post player playing primarily in the paint who's currently actually playing. We're not asking her to shoot- words cannot express how bad an idea it is for Bri to take jumpers- but she has to be a defensive force. Joy Adams crashed the boards ferociously, albeit with mixed success. She ran nice fast breaks, but I think Siena had been warned about her- they covered her pretty tightly, especially on the glass. (I looked at the box score, and I'm pretty sure at least two of those turnovers were rebounds that she didn't have complete control over.) Damika Martinez started off slow, taking bad threes and getting in foul trouble early, but got hot in the second half and converted on her free throws (which is a recurring theme with my teams, you may have noticed). She had a beautiful pass down low to Joy for a lay-up. Aleesha Powell ran a very solid point guard and hit some pretty shots off the glass.

All this sounds like I should be happy, but I'm really not. I don't like relying too much on the three, and we went 11-22 from beyond the arc. I'm of a defensive mindset, and we allowed 80 points while letting them have 17 offensive rebounds. Too much time was spent lolly-gagging in the backcourt- Damika only avoided a ten-second call by the skin of her teeth. Joy made a bad decision, and only two possessions later, after a great defensive play, does her coach decide to yelll at her about it. I did like the offense-defensive switch with Damika and Spencer- protects Damika, keeps her out of foul trouble, and puts Spencer in a situation where she can be successful. But I'm honestly not sure how much listening is going on on that bench, and that frightens me.

The officials were a hot mess today. If a player's jersey is being pulled so hard it seems about ready to come off, you might want to call the hold. If a player is taking four or five steps, it might behoove you to call that. We got the benefit of plenty of the slop ourselves- by rights, Sabrina should have been in foul trouble for most of the game. But I get tired of seeing badly called games that are flat-out dangerous for the players.

My fondness for Iona will have to be from afar for the next few months as we go our separate ways, but I'm looking forward to seeing them again on Tuesday for my final game of the 2013 calendar year.

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