Good afternoon, everyone! We're coming to you for what's likely the last time this season from the Hynes Athletic Center in New Rochelle, for Iona's Senior Day against Siena. Congratulatory balloons have been tied to the chairs on the Iona bench in honor of Jiya Dorcas-Eya and Diana Hubbard.
After having bused through it in the daytime, I have to admit that New Rochelle's a full-fledged city. What can I say? You have to be a metropolis, or possibly a megalopolis, before I admit to your city status- I'm from New York, so the bar is set pretty high. It's an oddly split city, but it's an interesting one nonetheless. With more frequent bus service, it might even be one I could get used to. I think I need to make more money before that's a viable option, though.
It doesn't take much to become one of the Usual Suspects at Iona, apparently; we've become part of the routine with only really picking it up in the latter part of this season. They're a nice second team to have. And there's a different vibe to the crowd here. It's an interesting contrast to St. John's.
Well, that was the classiest Senior Day celebration I've ever seen. Coach took the mic personally and introduced all of the seniors- not just Dorcas-Eya and Hubbard, not even just the manager, but all the seniors on the cheer and dance teams, along with Lily Grenci from Siena. Everyone got flowers given to them by someone from the Iona bench, either a player or staff, along with a t-shirt for the Iona folks (I suspect Grenci might have seen that as an insult). After pictures and tears, they even played the Nigerian national anthem for Dorcas-Eya (she's from Lagos) before playing the Star-Spangled Banner.
It's 32-17 Gaels at the half, and it was a bit of a cluster at the end of the half, with a lot of missed shots and missed violations. I think one of the referees took it personally that Sabrina Jeridore rolled into him going after a loose ball. Suck it up, princess, that's part of the game.
Coach was kind enough to invite us to the senior reception, so we're currently in that awkward situation where you're there before your host and everyone else is all "WTF are these people and WTF are they doing here?" We're sitting with Aleesha Powell's family (if the hat and interest in Philadelphia are accurate indicators) and they're really nice people. (Aaaaaaand I'm pretty sure Aleesha Powell herself is a pretty accurate indicator.) The pepperoni is GOOD. (This paragraph needed more parenthetical asides; we ended up running into them again on our way to the station, watching as their car was towed away with a broken axle.)
Clara Solé Anglada did a good job getting to the line, and late in the game she was launching threes that looked pretty good. I was tempted to give her a yellow card for simulation after the trip that was called on Aleesha Powell. Ida Krogh was first off the bench in both halves and chewed up a fair amount of minutes. Kim Lysius Côte got some free throws late in the game. I really don't have any clear impressions of the rest of the Siena bench, and therefore cannot fairly judge them; the times when Ali Jaques went to her reserves were generally the times that the Iona fans were getting loudest, and we were getting behind them.
I think I would like Kate Zarotney a lot more if she weren't quite so handsy. I like her work on the boards, and she did a fantastic job cleaning up on the glass- I think all of her baskets were on putbacks. But she just couldn't stop reaching. Ciara Stewart was accidentally announced as Clara the first time around, but the announcer got a handle on her name the second time. She kept committing really stupid fouls on plays she had no legitimate shot at. I'm not sure what her role is for Siena, but I'd hope that's not it. Lily Grenci did work around the basket- I think there were a couple of possessions where she and Zarotney were essentially tipping the ball to each other on missed shots. It was a little crazy, but they worked well together and both took advantage of their height. Tehresa Coles hit a couple of nice baskets, but that's all I remember about her. Allison Mullings really impressed me most in terms of scoring ability and nose for being in the right place at the right time on defense.
My memories of Siena are generally of green jerseys going for rebounds two or three at a time. They killed the offensive boards- 20 of their 42 rebounds were at their own end.
You know it's a blowout when Jordan Henry sees the floor for Iona. We were all hoping that lay-up would go in instead of bouncing hard off the inside of the rim. Shonice Hawkins gives the best "WTF is this I don't even" face I've seen in a while (which is awkward when it's aimed in your general direction). Cassidee Ranger got her shots in the corner, and even buried one of them, but what impressed me most about her today was her commitment to defense. She looked really good at that end of the floor. I don't know that was a situational "I know Diana's getting the minutes as a shooter today" thing, or if she's committed herself to being more than a one-trick pony, but I like it. Sabrina Jeridore had the facial expressions of a woman in agony for most of the game, and the giant bag of ice she was dragging around with her after the game suggested that I wasn't just misreading her face. She seemed a little slowed up and hesitant, but still a gamer, especially on the defensive end of the floor. She and Aleesha Powell came off the bench for this one so the seniors could start, and Powell seemed to adjust better than Jeridore did. Powell had a great second half, and was the only Gael who could get herself consistently to the line. She and Briana Brown of St. John's need to start a support group for guards who repeatedly get hammered on a daily basis without the official being concerned about their well-being. She also had two particularly flashy steals out of the six she nabbed. I like her, and not just because we ended up sitting with her family. Aaliyah Robinson had a solid game with good defensive plays.
Damika Martinez's shooting was Jekyll and Hyde. In the first half, she was awful- I think she missed her first five or six shots before hitting a three late in the half. In the second half, she got her feet under her and got hot from long range. Whatever adjustment she made, it worked. Her ballhandling still needs a little... okay, a lot... of work. Haley D'Angelo was solid but unspectacular, and way more passive than I liked. She passed up a couple of good looks, and I think at least one of those over-passed plays led to a turnover. Diana Hubbard took full advantage of her start- the place went off when she hit the lay-up to get to 10 points. She was draining threes from the far corner, too. Jiya Dorcas-Eya had some bad luck with the rim, and got a little too aggressive on block attempts, but she brought good energy, especially when she hit the one shot she got to go down (I think it was a putback, but even if the NCAA sanctioned gambling, I wouldn't put money on it). Joy Adams started off like a house on fire- at one point she was outscoring Siena 10-9. She cooled off later, but she made her impact felt. That's one impressive freshman.
Iona lost focus in the second half, when Siena made their run, but I don't think they were going to lose on their Senior Day. I don't think anyone was going to let that happen.
I do think the referees took things personally. The black ref (sorry to describe him like that, but I didn't know any of them and I never got their names) seemed irked that Senior Day was so long, and one of the other ones took that hit from Jeridore. There were some very odd non-calls in the second half. While I think Iona could have been more aggressive going to the basket, the 22-7 free throw differential was out of control.
The dance team routine with all the arm holding was very technically impressive. I usually give them a hard time, but that was pretty good. The cheerleaders still need to find some shorter cheers so they don't get stuck on a change of possession, though. It's hard to get involved when the cheer's a minute long.
This is going to be a good finish to the MAAC season- not for first, but for second, where Fairfield and Iona are battling for what might be the conference's automatic bid to the WNIT. In a conference that essentially only gets one bid to the NCAA tournament, that could be huge.