If you ever wonder why, as a women's basketball fan, I resent men's basketball, here's a textbook example. Iona's Senior Day against Marist is a double-header with the men. I didn't know this until I got to the box office and looked at the tickets; it wasn't mentioned in the game day information. So we're stuck in the upper deck, last row, backs to the wall, instead of with our friends and cohorts in the section behind the bench, and forced to pay extra for a game we weren't here to see.
And if Iona was hoping that this would keep the Marist fans out, the big splotch of red across from us indicates that it's not working.
Seriously, we're so far up that we just had to shift so the camera crew could plug in. NOT AMUSED. (I'm suddenly very grateful I'm going to Senior Night at Seton Hall, because I know Tony Bozzella will do it right, and I'd like to see one Senior Day done right this year.)
I really hate to keep harping, but there are Marist fans with better seats than we have, across from our bench, and this is ridiculous. I don't care about the Iona men. I might have considered staying because the Iona men are good, but I don't know if I want to respect them.
Here, have some FEELS for the Iona seniors, all of whom are uniquely specialized.
This cannot possibly be the senior year Shonice Hawkins wanted.
It's a shame, because in years before, she was a stalwart defender and a firestarter off the bench. She wasn't going to get the big minutes and she wasn't going to get the glory, but she was going to get the stop and she was going to make sure her team stayed in the game.
She's kept up her role as a team leader even on the bench in street clothes. She's been in the middle of everything, keeping the team's spirit high and keeping them fired up.
You do what you can, even when it's not what you wanted. That's what it means to be part of a team, and Shonice took that to heart.
If you told me, "Look, you're down one, you need a basket in the paint, and you can only pick one player off one of your favorite teams to hit that shot," there are a lot of players I'd pick before Sabrina Jeridore.
But if you told me, "Look, you're up one, you need to keep the other team from scoring in the paint, and you can only use players off your favorite teams to stop that shot," Sabrina Jeridore would be the first name out of my mouth (followed closely by Amber Thompson and Bra'Shey Ali). Bri's shooting is erratic at best, but on the defensive end, she owns the paint, plain and simple. She's one of the best shot blockers I've seen in a long time. You don't score on her in the paint, plain and simple. You need a player like that to anchor your defense.
She takes Lisa Leslie as a role model, at least enough to use her image as a Twitter header. Good choice for a player of her style. And even if I personally don't like Leslie, it's always good to see a female player actually taking a WNBA player as a role model.
This year wouldn't be possible without Haley D'Angelo. The talent is young and raw and prone to making stupid mistakes (and I love Joy and Damika and Aleesha and Aaliyah, don't get me wrong). But whe you have young, raw takent, you need a steady hand and a clear head to run the offense. And that's exactly what Haley D'Angelo brings to the table.
She's never going to be a big scorer- I don't think she ever was. She's not dazzling. She's not flashy. She's not dynamic as a player. But she's smart, she's efficient, and she's steady. I didn't know until the Senior Day ceremony that she started out as a walk-on, and to go from walk-on to starting point guard is an incredible journey.
We aren't the Phoenix Mercury, but we have a similar enough structure that I think I can make this comparison. Damika might be our Cappie, and Joy might be our Penny, though we really don't have a Diana. But Haley... Haley is undeniably our Kelly Miller. She's the engine that makes the whole thing go. Haley returning for this season instead of saying "screw this, I got a degree" is probably the biggest reason why this season is what it is instead of being a deep disappointment and fourth in the conference.
(game notes resume)
Oh, hey, there's a band. How nice of someone musical to show up. I think they're an alumni band, but still. That would be like, the first time in ever.
Halftime update: thanks to a brilliant and wonderful student worker named Tommy, we got put in our proper place behind the bench with our posse, and we're being appropriately loud. It's been a back and forth game, with Marist up at the half. Marist had an early 10-4 lead; but the Gaels came back strong, and since then it's been nip and tuck. Just to make me look like an idiot, Sabrina Jeridore is leading the Gaels with nine points.
Today is also the 40th anniversary celebration of the program, so they're doing a ceremony with alumnae and coaches. Look at all of those bad-ass ladies.
The Senior Day ceremony was beautiful. I was kind of sad that Shonice didn't have family to walk out with her, just a friend (or a "friend", but I ain't judging), but I liked that Damika and Joy walked out with her in their place. They brought flowers for the Marist seniors, and there were posters for the dance and cheer teams. RIGHT IN THE FEELS. It's kind of fascinating how this year's class was so narrowly specialized. Sabrina's a shot-blocker, Haley's a distributor, and Shonice steals the ball.
The band is not impressing me. I'm starting to understand why they didn't do women's games most of the time. Slow jazz doesn't exactly fit with this squad.
We have to finish the job at the rim. Real champions finish at the rim. That's what Marist did especially after contact, and that's what we couldn't manage. The shots they hit and the shots we missed were the difference in this game. This is the kind of game where it's easy to blame the bad officiating for the loss, because make no mistake about it, the officiating was bad to the point of hazard for the players. Sabrina and Aleesha can tell you all about that. That's the easy way out, but that's the loser's way out. When it came right down to the real nitty-gritty, they hit the shots that mattered and we didn't.
Brittni Lai played briefly in the first half, long enough to establish that she wasn't going to be an effective option for the Red Foxes. Natalie Gomez-Martinez gave some good minutes in relief of the guards, showing a little speed and strength. Madeline Blais used her height well against the mismatches on defense and got to the line efficiently. She was big for them off the bench.
Casey Dulin gets an awful lot of steps on her lay-ups. We're talking about three and four steps on the run-up, all but tucking the ball under her arm like a running back. She took contact as well as a running back, too, getting and completing and-1s the way Rachelle Fitz used to (I still remember that one game where pretty much every picture I got was of Fitz getting a three-point play). She slipped the defense very well. Emma O'Connor killed us from the outside. We kept leaving her open, and she kept hitting threes. She had two early, then added another one as part of the big run to open the second half for Marist. Sydney Coffey was solid but unmemorable. Leanne Ockenden didn't necessarily make a big impact on offense, but read Iona's offense brilliantly- there were one or two plays that she broke up simply by predicting them perfectly. That's the senior advantage right there. Tori Jarosz was unstoppable when she got that first step down low. It was fascinating watching her seem to calculate and consistently overshoot once she was out of her low-post comfort zone, but once she got the baseline, she was throwing in little hooks every time she got anywhere near the basket. (One wonders how this strength of Jarosz's will mesh with Giorgis's plea of "STOP GOING BASELINE!")
This Marist team is not the perfectly oiled machine of the past, nor do they have the talent that the big upset teams of the past did. But they still get the job done, and they take advantage of mistakes.
Cassidee Ranger's been setting stronger screens this year, which is either a promising sign of versatility and development, or an act of desperation from a three who's been forced to the four out of necessity. She got open shots and hit them, and kept the offense coming from the outside. Aaliyah Robinson's shooting was streaky, but she was a better matchup with Marist's bigger guards than Aleesha Powell. (I do find myself wondering what happened with the rest of Iona's bench, though. Christina Rubin was solid at point early in the year, Spencer Gray has good defensive instincts, and Aurelia Cammock at least brings some size off the bench. I don't know if I'd shorten up the rotation quite this much.)
Aleesha Powell was getting knocked around like a feather out there today. She's got way too slim a build to hang, and if she's not getting calls on clipping, she's even worse off. She was too heavily guarded to get off a good shot, and she kept trying to get off bad ones. Damika Martinez came on late, but made some very bad decisions on the baseline- knocked the ball out of a teammate's hands on one rebound, pursued another out on the next opportunity. She had a pretty assist in the first half to Sabrina Jeridore down low. Sabrina started the game red hot, but didn't play as much in the second half and didn't have as many easy looks. Didn't help that she, like so many of her teammates, was missing shots at the rim. Easy ones that should have gone donw. Joy Adams looked to be lacking energy early on, but picked it up in the second half. Haley D'Angelo did what Haley does, which is not shoot all that often, but not make too many mistakes. Her ballhandling wasn't as sharp as usual, but she got after all her fumbles.
Hit your shots, Gaels. Hit your lay-ups, hit your free throws, take every chance you have, because it's patently obvious that you're not going to be given anything. The officiating in this game was a hot mess. Marist was getting away with a lot of tripping and clipping. We got away with some blatant non-calls (Aleesha, there's no tackling in basketball), but there's something not kosher about the free throw differential. That all didn't help. Did it make the difference in the game? Psychologically, maybe. But you can't go down that road.
It's on to Springfield now, where the games really matter and everything's on the line. This is the time. This is the moment. This is the year.