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Toledo Rockets Roar Past Iona Gaels

Just the Facts, Ma'am: Two spirited double-digit comebacks by the Iona Gaels weren't enough for them to win their holiday tournament, as they fell to the Toledo Rockets 68-60. Naama Shafir led the way for Toledo with 16 points and six assists, getting help from the 15 points of Melissa Goodall and the 13 points and 10 rebounds of Lecretia Smith. Kristina Ford led the home team with 16 points and nine boards. Tomica Bacic and Marissa Flagg scored all their points, 12 and 11 respectively, in the second half to help erase a ten-point Toledo lead.

For true confessions, a lack of old awesome, knee-related trauma, and a half dozen free wings, join your intrepid and reliable blogger after the jump.

After the consolation game, it was on to the next one, and to the game that we were really there to see. No disrespect meant to UMBC and Brown, but Iona's a better team than either, and we've been dying to see Naama Shafir since she was a freshman. This was the matchup that we scoreboard-watched all day, hoping would happen. This is the reason why we hiked up to New Rochelle.

Apparently, it was the whole reason that Iona came too. The concessions never did open up, but the fans started to show up during the intermission between games. (Of course, this cut both ways; a bunch of UMBC people left during introductions. This is not a good idea when Iona does their home intros in a darkened arena.)

Since Iona doesn't have a band, we didn't have to worry about a skeleton crew brutalizing the national anthem- the PA announcer did double duty as the DJ, playing and pausing the various tracks on his computer. This was all right when the tracks were traditional arena rock. It was somewhat less all right when he played Miley Cyrus during a timeout, then followed it up with two straight timeouts of Justin Bieber. I had to be reminded that giving someone a swirly in a urinal is considered assault and is therefore a felony. But my ears are still bleeding, and someone needs to pay for that.

Toledo got some very good minutes from Haylie Linn. I like her hustle. She had a good knack for being in the right place at the right time, my favorite sort of player. Yolanda Richardson was also a key reserve in this game. Big girl's got moves. I approve of this message. Andola Dortch, who biked when she wasn't in the game, saw time in the second half when Coach Cullop went for the offense/defense swaps.

For the Rockets, they went to their starters to get darn near everything. Lecretia Smith had a bad habit of getting in her own way on rebounds and loose balls, but she made things happen on the inside. Don't recall much about Courtney Ingersoll. Jessica Williams got into foul trouble late in the game, but I don't recall if she did anything worth mentioning or not. Naama Shafir is a really good point guard who shows flashes of being a great point guard. She doesn't quite have that complete mastery of the floor that the greatest point guards have, not quite that sense that as soon as she walks onto the floor the game is hers, not quite the feeling that the ball will always go exactly where she wants it and exactly when she wants it to. There were times in that game when the feeling was there, but only times. She has got to watch her footwork, because three or four of her turnovers came on travels that could have been avoided with a little more care and forethought. I like her shot and her scrappiness, though. Melissa Goodall was the player who impressed me that I wasn't expecting to impress me. She just found her way to the basket and put the ball in. It seemed that simple.

Iona likes to go deep into their bench. I think everyone who was eligible played. Maybe that's an exaggeration, but if it is, it isn't much of one. I can't shake the feeling that Cat Lutz should go by the full form of her name. A hard C plus the surname Lutz is not going to end well. I miss Milica Paligoric's eyeblack. (At least, I think it was hers. It was awesome, whoever had it, and I miss it.) She brought a very physical presence, sometimes too physical. (Don't elbow your opponent in the face. It's not polite.) Lutz was a common tag team with Kopp. I'm not sure the combination worked. My memory is failing me, and so are my notes- their bench must not have done that much.

Anda Ivkovic went down hard at one point, and let me tell you, there are some serious disadvantages to being in a small, sparsely populated arena. You get to hear every scream of agony and every whimper when a player crumples to the floor, clutching the knee that she's already suffered a torn ACL in. The weird thing was that after a few minutes on the bench, she was standing up and getting all taped up, and she even played a couple of series after that before calling a timeout and getting out of the game. That was the last we saw of her. I wish her all the best. No one deserves to spend even a second of their senior season curled up in pain. Her role as shooter was admirably picked up by Kristina Ford, who I sort of had to root for, because she's from my nabe. It felt like she was shooting more threes than the boxscore suggests, and her presence on the boards was strong as well. I like her. This game would not have been nearly as interesting as it turned out to be if Tomica Bacic and Marissa Flagg hadn't shown up in the second half. I've seen games where one player has a second-half run that beats all. I've never seen a game where two players were silent in the first, then went off in the second half. Bacic decided she was going to take over, and she started going inside with a vengeance. She had a dramatic injury moment as well, when she twisted her ankle a few minutes after Ivkovic went out with her knee injury. She got up faster, and though she was limping for a minute or two, she was fine fast enough for me to be a wee bit skeptical of her. Flagg got a lot more aggressive and assertive in the second. Whether it was because Toledo forgot about her or because she decided to step up, I couldn't say for certain. Suzi Fregosi, despite being the poster girl for today's game (*holds up scorecard poster* See?), didn't produce very much- a couple of shots when Iona was trying to make one of their early comebacks, but nothing after that.

Stat combination of the game: 21 Iona turnovers. 15 Toledo steals. The Rockets were on them like white on rice.

The refs for this game let a lot of contact go, which falls into Iona's game. Iona has a tendency to lose their cool and play very physically. When you're wondering whether Iona has a football team, and if they do, whether they'd be cool with a Serbian center, things might have gotten a bit out of control. Shame; Aliberti and Lonergan usually call a better game than that. If you've been reading previous Game Notes of Doom, you might recall the epic saga of the gender-swapping ref, the linesman Aliberti who was listed as Janice last year but as John in a St. John's boxscore from this year. I'm thinking now that that was the Red Storm's mistake, because Aliberti was once more a Janice in the NCAA boxscore for this game, and she definitely sounded like a Janice. I really like how she handled herself with the coaches (who are both fairly intense and argumentative) and the scorer's table.

Shoutout to the small but very vocal contingent of Toledo fans who sat behind the visitors' bench. We could feel their stomping one section over. They outdid the few Iona fans who were there.

Iona has far too many cheerleaders. They're the old-fashioned kind, so maybe that's why- they're not doing stunts, just trying to impress by choreography. But we saw them coming in, and they just kept coming.

There was no tournament team. There were no post-game honors at all. We had to get out of there before they rolled up the bleachers on us. It was a good trip. I'll be happy to do it again next year, just as long as I remember this time that the trains get you there at 11:30 and 12:30, or thereabouts.