Promises were kept, hills were climbed, sets were completed, and young players impressed in Iona's 74-64 win over Wagner. Joy Adams had 21 points for the Gaels, and Damika Martinez added 13 of her 17 in the second half. Stephanie Blais led Wagner with 19.
If there's anything unusual about these notes, it's because I took a brief side trip to Los Angeles (for reasons which will become clear on March 28th) and within two hours of landing in the City of Angels, my laptop died and is currently awaiting diagnosis and repair in Kentucky. So I am currently borrowing my husband's Mac and typing up notes far too long after the fact for my liking.
For all of my travels throughout the metro area covering women's basketball in pretty much all the places, I still didn't technically have a full set in New York City. For whatever reason, I just never ended up at Wagner. Eithioer it was because they had a bad team, or because they weren't playing anyone good, or because everything conflicted with something else. This time, the stars were aligned. We got an open day, we'd promised Iona's coach as much support as we could give him, and since Sheree Ledbetter graduated from Towson, we had no reason to go see them at LIU, so there were no conflicts.
Unfortunately, Wagner is way up on top of a hill. Even more unfortunately, the bus that runs through campus and connects the major transit centers of St. George and Port Richmond only runs on weekdays. By the time we reached the top of the hill, I was pretty sure that at some point I was going to die. My lungs hurt. The back of my throat is still slightly sore. And apparently that's the only way to get to Wagner on a weekend without a car.
The ticket lobby, which is separated from what appears to be the main entrance, is decorated in program history, with a huge display case devoted to Andrew Bailey. There's also a somewhat dissonant note of jingoism in there, with the emphasis on alumni who died in service. Maybe that's just the emphasis from the fraternity that sponsored most of the plaques, though. The gym is nice- it would be a top-notch high school gym, but as a college facility it leaves a bit to be desired. Well, until the game starts and it turns into a veritable cauldron of noise. The acoustics are painful. There's a Hall of Fame on the second floor, and it was open to the public, as far as I could tell, but they didn't seem to be taking as much advantage of the windows up there as they could have been. If I were a booster, I'd think that was a pretty awesome place to watch a game.
I'm pretty sure the scoreboards are older than I am. When they include the word "bout" on them, either they come from a time when boxing was a collegiate sport or they predate some changes in wrestling terminology.
The staff was a bit disorganized, no one being sure of who was working and who knew whom. When the doors opened, there was a bit of a delay because one of the doorstops got stuck behind the door. In general, it seemed like most of the people at Wagner didn't have much interest in strangers, especially those who seemed lost, or who didn't drive.
We got the time of the game wrong at our end, so that was a little awkward. But we got to spend some time in the student union and shop at the fairly awesome bookstore. We brought home a magnet.
The anthem was sung by a pair of sisters who really did some work on it. Nicely done. I think they sing in the choir or something.
Wagner wanted five bucks for a magazine with a roster. I don't have five bucks right now. That's part of the delay as well. I had to pull up rosters before I could get started. As of 10:11 PM, the box score is not yet up, either, so you're really working off my impressions.
It was 33-30 Iona at half, in a game that started out as a duel between Wagner's Stephanie Blais (10 points at half) and Iona's Joy Adams (nine early points). When Adams went to the bench with her second foul, more Iona players got involved in the offense, but the offense also broke down a little bit. It was a very physical game with some questionable calls or lack thereof. The late whistle on Sabrina Jeridore's second foul, which came after the next play was almost off, was inexcusable. Iona's ball control was atrocious and Wagner's Canadians like to throw elbows. (Though, since all four of them are from Quebec, perhaps I should call them Canadiens.)
Shonice Hawkins was the first sub in, but she didn't make much of an impression on me. Diana Hubbard had some big shots and did some work on defense, but I think she might have been a little reckless and a little more prone to mistakes than a senior on a young team should be. Aaliyah Robinson put in good time. Cassidee Ranger, who has such a Wild West name that I half-expect her to end up at Wyoming or Oklahoma State or something, got hot late in the first half. Her first shot was a miserable failure, but then she had three threes. Her defense needs work, especially for her height (though, to be fair to her, she ended up guarding a 6-3 player a lot of the time), but that's the kind of thing that comes with time. Kadesia Johnson was in and out of the game, but I don't remember much of what she did. Jiya Dorcas-Eya was in just long enough to commit a lane violation that got Wagner an extra free throw.
Haley D'Angelo runs the offense with a fairly steady hand. I like the way she finds her teammates. She knows her role, and her role is to be a facilitator. She's almost too hesitant to shoot- it makes things harder for her teammates. Sabrina Jeridore impressed me with her length- if she didn't have at least three credited blocks in that game, the scorekeeper was either asleep or a blatant homer. Her long arms were everywhere, both for good on blocks and deflections and for ill on fouls. Aleesha Powell had a nice on-ball presence; the defense seemed to suffer when she was out of the game. Damika Martinez turned it up in the second half, which made the husband very happy- he's been talking her up a lot, and she started to show it. She also had two shots rim out, so her numbers look a little worse than they were. But the player I was most impressed with was Joy Adams. I think she won a tiny little piece of my Red Storm red heart when she went coast to coast for a lay-up off a defensive play. She's got a lot of potential. She does need to stop grabbing the net. Some ref is going to be a lot less patient than these guys were, and she's going to get a technical, and I'm pretty sure that getting technicals is Coach Bozzella's job on this team.
We got to chat briefly with Coach before the game. He seems like a really nice guy. Very energetic. And for energetic read "I'm not sure if what runs through his veins is blood or coffee".
Chanez Robinson really worked the lane and the line. She got to the line more than just about anyone. I love Ugo Nwaigwe's hustle- she was like a bloodhound going after rebounds. There's something about the set of her shoulders that tells me that she's a serious player. She came on stronger in the second half. One of her baskets came on a fourth-chance shot after she chased down three rebounds. Jordyn Peck came out of nowhere in the waning minutes of the game with a soft shot that got a lot of net and made things a lot more interesting. There was a very brief Emily Adams cameo, but I think she was just there for height.
Veronick Fournier was solid, if unremarkable. Stephanie Blais (or, as the announcer would say, Stephanie B-b-b-b-b-blais) played a great game all over the floor. She went out early in the second half, and I wonder if that threw her off a little bit- she was deferring more to her teammates later in the game. I like her shot. I don't know if I like the elbows and body checks that are somewhat more suited to hockey than basketball. (I'm sorry, Wagner, but you start four Canadians, you're going to get hockey jokes.) Jacqui Thompson seems to be more of a distributor and defender than the rest of her teammates. I don't remember much about her. Marie-Laurence Archambault showed off the long shot that I remember from when Wagner played at St. John's a couple of years ago, and she also brought length on defense. Laura Amarosa was more of a factor on both ends in the second half than in the first half.
I'm not sure what was up with these refs, but they were inconsistent with their calls and inconsistent with the timing of their calls. I don't think I've ever seen a crew both blow the whistle early and late in the same game. Of course I'm biased, since I was cheering for Iona, but it did seem like Wagner was getting the benefit of the doubt on most of the calls. I thought Coach Bozzella was going to have a conniption, at the very least. I know he tends to be demonstrative, but this was intense.
Going down the hill was easier than going up the hill. It wasn't just that it was downhill instead of uphill, but we also knew where the hill ended instead of going "are we there yet?" I'd still rather not go out to Wagner on a day that the bus isn't running, though. But promise made, promise kept, and set complete. I've now been to every D-I school in New York.