And here we are once more into the breach, or something like that, as your intrepid blogger finally gets to see a home game for one of her teams. Iona opens up at home against Sacred Heart.
I am a little disappointed in New Rochelle. I'd been jonesing for the last few days for blackout fries and a sandwich over at the Blackboard, only to discover that the Blackboard is under new ownership and is apparently now a pizza joint. Breaks my heart- that was some of the best pregame eats anywhere in my travels; the only ones who had them beat were LIU, and that's because if you go to an LIU game, you're a fool for not going to Junior's. We're going to investigate a couple of other places in that area, but I still want my blackout fries. :(
Speaking of boards, though, Iona has installed two huge, new, shiny boards, equipped with constant stats for all players on the roster. I approve this message so hard, you have no idea.
We're sitting with Damika's family, which promises to be loud and epic, since Damika is two points away from breaking the Iona scoring record, which is pretty much a certainty unless something unspeakably awful happens. Please don't let something unspeakably awful happen.
Someone on Sacred Heart's team, either an assistant or an injured player, is rocking a jacket straight out of the '80s Coaches' Collection. I think it's more Kim Mulkey, my husband thinks it's more Andy Landers. But it's a bilious green with a pattern that looks almost like camo. I do not approve in any way, shape, or form.
Sacred Heart, we need to have a talk about your roster and why at least three of your players are wearing jerseys that don't match the roster on your website. It's very confusing.
It's a day of milestones here at the Hynes Athletics Center, as Joy Adams joins the 1000 point club and Damika Martinez has made a club all of her own, taking over the Iona career scoring record. And given that she's at 1905 right now, the odds of her hitting 2000 are pretty good. But Iona's only up two at the half. Hannah Kimmel's been big for the Pioneers, and so have the four triples of Shelby Hickey.
Despite my love for the Syracuse zone as run by Jim Boeheim, I am really starting to develop a distaste for it, mostly because coaches that fall in love with it won't get out of it, no matter how badly they're getting sliced up. If you allow six threes in the first half because Sacred Heart is driving and dishing and getting open looks and hitting open looks, it might be time to reconsider your game plan. Instead, Iona stuck to the zone and gave up six more threes in the second half. Give up 12 triples in a game, and you're probably going to lose.
Lerae Ettienne makes quite the first impression- tall, broad-shouldered, copper-haired- and she did an excellent job of getting inside for the Pioneers. (I know that at least once in the game I yelled something along the lines of "How can you miss her?!" after she got the baseline and went up for a lay-up. Kelcey Castro brought offense off the bench, coming up with big threes in the second half. Tykera Carter and her giant pouf of hair got good looks from the outside, though she wasn't able to hit them, and I think she was also part of the roving defensive brigade on Damika Martinez. (Well, pretty much everyone defended Damika Martinez at one point or another. She's the Gaels' primary and secondary offensive options.) Katherine Haines was the first player in off the bench for Sacred Heart, but she didn't play much.
Katie Shepard is a nice little point guard- did more of her distributing in the first half, then started hitting shots in the second, when her team needed a little bit of an offensive boost. She was also pesky on defense. Hannah Kimmel did a little bit of everything- rebounding, inside lay-ups, outside jumpers, defense. I think the disconnect between her academic age and her calendar age- she's a redshirt sophomore who spent two seasons injured- is interesting, as she has a lot more experience and maturity than you would see from a regular sophomore, and that might be a big help to them in the next year or two. Shelby Hickey killed us in the first half beyond the arc, then she started taking the baseline too, just when everyone else was starting to set up outside. Adaysha Williams took a lot of shots. They were not all good shots. Alissa Tarsi seemed like a non-factor until the second half, when she was committing fouls- I think Ettienne got a lot of her minutes in the first half.
We got our first look at Ashley Murray in this one. I like her size, but like every freshman post before her, she has to learn to use her body without committing fouls. (Though she does apper to be of the school that if you're going to commit a foul, you might as well go for it with gusto- her second foul almost had her opponent in a half nelson.) Kristin Mahoney spelled Damika in the first half and seemed very nervous. There was no excuse other than nerves for that fumble. Karynda DuPree had a nice block in the first half, but was otherwise very passive, and she was parked on the bench for the second half. I like Philecia Gilmore's instincts, and I like her hustle, but she's got deplorable foot speed. I'm not going to harp on her conditioning in every set of game notes, because I am the last person who has any right to comment on that. I assume she's going to work on that at some point. Aaliyah Robinson found her shot again and was all over the boards. I love her heart and her hustle, and if Damika weren't a phenomenon, Aaliyah would be my favorite Gael.
But Damika Martinez is a phenomenon, a scoring force of nature the likes of which I have never had the chance to root for before, a near certainty to join the 2000-point club and making a good run at the MAAC career scoring record. She looked at the situation in the second half, where Iona wasn't scoring anything from anywhere, and basically took matters into her own hands, with 25 of her 37 in the second half. She wasn't asked to run point in this one, which she has occasionally been asked to do (this is not a good plan). I just wish she'd looked at the clock before taking the last shot after the buzzer. It didn't go in, but it's the point of the matter. Cassidee Ranger did a lot of running around to create screens and try to get looks, being more successful with the former than with the latter. Joy Adams missed makeable shots, but I love how she works on the boards. I'm just not sure what her position is. Marina Lizarazu moved the ball to the right people, but still seemed a little hesitant- we got luck on at least one play that should have been a five-second call. Aurellia Cammock had trouble holding on to rebounds- I'm pretty sure she would have had at least three more boards if she'd been able to maintain control. I love her hustle- she just needs to work on her hands. (And on getting people to spell her name correctly. She's been showing up as Auriella in some parts of the roster, and while Auriella is a beautiful name, it's not hers.)
Some bad calls in this game on both ends of the floor- I thought there was going to be an incident when Damika was called for her second foul on a bad, bad charge call, but in the second half, the scales were balanced with a bad fourth foul charge on Hannah Kimmel. I thought there was a key non-call late in the game when Joy went to the basket, but you can't put an entire game on that.
Defense matters. We can score all we want, but scoring 80 points doesn't matter if your opponent puts up 82. And looking at this team- maybe it's just early in the season, but no one on Iona seems really sure that they can trust each other. It's not reassuring.