Good afternoon, everyone! We're coming to you on tape delay from the Hynes Athletic Center in beautiful New Rochelle, New York, where the Iona Gaels will be facing the Peahens of St. Peter's. (Who are actually now Peacocks, and that makes me sad. Biological accuracy, people!)
There's nothing quite like a cab ride with a conspiracy theorist who thinks corporate America is putting the flu enzyme into mixed bags of chips and makes up tales about winning shooting contests in the '70s. I wish I were making up this insanity. I'm impressed he didn't descend into birther nonsense.
My stat board is gone, and that makes me sad. One of the amenities I liked about Iona was being able to track some of the team stats. But the chairback seats and team-colored bleachers are still nice. Would have liked some sign of school spirit- band, cheerleaders, dancers, mascot, something- though. Ah, there go the cheerleaders now. I feel better. I mean, not that cheerleaders make me feel better, but it's the thought that counts.
Coach has gone out of his way to make us feel welcome, and I really appreciate that. (Joe? Your move.)
Being able to get an internet connection has its advantages. And its disadvantages. (My poor Johnnies.)
At halftime, it's 48-25 in favor of Iona, and it could easily be more. Iona's been kind of lazy in the last few minutes, going one and out on shots they don't necessarily need to be taking. More passing and less chucking would be recommended. St. Peter's could use a shooting coach to get them to stop taking shots with two hands in '50s style, but Kristal Edwards impresses me; her build reminds me a bit of Shenneika Smith. For the Gaels, Aleesha Powell is working on a double-double with 11 points and six boards. She's been everywhere. Personally, I'm glad Sabrina Jeridore learned from that tongue-lashing against Marist and went up strong on offensive rebounds. It pays!
Most "um, are you really sure this is a good plan?" moment: Emily Brown attempting to flip Jeridore over her back. Brown's a 5-9 guard; Jeridore's a 6-3 center with flashes of Noo Yawk attitude.
I'm not going to say anything rude about a ten-year-old girl singing the anthem- but if you're going to put her out in front of everyone, make sure she knows the words and can handle some of the ridiculous notes.
This was a little more like the Iona team I've been expecting to see all year, though there's still a bit of youth that needs to be filed off. Fortunately, they've got a bit of time- more now that Haley D'Angelo's petition for an extra year of eligibility has in fact been approved, and she's gone from senior to redshirt junior. (It's like magic!)
Stephanie DeWolff wasn't coaching this game- for whatever reason, Tiffany Jones was called upon to run the show in her purple blouse and sparkly purple heels. (I didn't see that they were in fact sparkly and purple until after the game. They looked good on her.) Honestly? I feel like this was probably better for St. Peter's than having DeWolff coaching. It seemed like they weren't making too many mistakes strategically, just the ones that end up being made by players who haven't gotten coaching in some of the fundamentals. There were way too many two-handed heaves even on lay-ups that did NOT look good. (Later reports- DeWolff is apparently on maternity leave. Can we place odds on whether the reason for her departure is "to spend more time with her family" instead of "her contract is up and holy cow are we bad"?)
Teresa Corchado got pulled right after setting up a little trip, and I think her coach talked to her about that before sending her back into the game. Sherika Salmon was the next-to-last player off the bench, and her one shot came out of the right corner. Lovisa Hagberg at least tried to get in on the boards, even if she didn't manage to pull any down. The three she hit was actually deflected and still went in; we saw her shaking her hand out afterwards, as if she'd gotten hit. There's something I like about Neechelle Ingram, even though she didn't make a statistical impact. I just got the sense that she either can be a good player and just hasn't gotten it together yet, or that she just had a bad game. Donyelle Stuettey is a tank in the middle. The 55 on her jersey wasn't the only reason we were reminded of Vanessa Hayden. She liked to force people to back down with her size, and since pretty much everyone was smaller than she was, that worked out for her. But once she got close to the basket, she was just throwing the ball at the rim without much aim or intent. She didn't seem to know what to do if another defender came in, or if her defender didn't want to move. Emily Brown, other than that moment of first-half bravado/stupidity, didn't make much of an impression.
I really do like Kristal Edwards. She still seems a bit skittish and less aggressive than I would like out of a player of her build, but she really got her offense going in the second half. Jesika Holmes was effective, but a lot of that seemed to come from a forearm shiver that would impress Marshawn Lynch. I think my favorite part- as someone who was cheering for Iona- was when she shoved the defender off with the right arm, took a couple of extra steps, and proceeded to blow the lay-up. Aziza May scored pretty much everything in threes, and most of those threes came from Pelham Bay or thereabouts. She did a nice job finding her teammates, as well. I don't know if I'd have called her hit on Kadesia Johnson a flagrant, but it was a pretty hard hit. She argued it hard, but I think she was smart enough to realize that she wasn't going to get that overturned, and if she kept going, a technical would have been her fifth foul. Kaydine Bent cleared the boards well and often seemed to be in the right place at the right time. And I like her name. I also liked what I saw out of Hala ElShaarawy (who the announcer kept calling Hala Mostafa, but something didn't seem right about that). She's raw, but she's got some potential, and she's only a freshman. She'll learn the touch around the basket.
Jordan Henry looked so lost when she was in the game. I wasn't surprised, since this was the first time I'd seen her play in three games, and I didn't even know she was active, so I imagine she doesn't see a lot of playing time. Fortunately, she's only a freshman, so Coach will have time to teach her to follow her shot, go hard to the basket, and make sure she and her teammates are on the same page when passing on the baseline. Cassidee Ranger also needs to follow her shot. Nobody's perfect, no matter how pretty your shot is. Everyone was thrilled for Jiya Dorcas-Eya when she got extended minutes and got herself to the line- the whole bench was cheering for her. She acquitted herself well, though I'd like to see a bit more sturdiness from her on defense. Shonice Hawkins played a little bit of D, and I think her basket was on a fast break, but I'm not sure. Diana Hubbard did that thing where she gets the ball in the corner and nails a three. She did it a few times. I could have sworn she got in on the rebounding too, but the box score tells me not. Kadesia Johnson had herself a nice little game, crashing the glass and converting on her shots. Aleesha Powell went off in the first half- there was a point where her 10 points were almost equal to St. Peter's (they had 12). She cooled off in the second half, but by then, they didn't need her anymore. But that first half was reminiscent of the good days from a different Powell.
Joy Adams joined the party in the second half, going hard to the basket and converting on most of her free throws. She still needs to work on that. I do like her toughness, and she's going to be a force to be reckoned with by her senior year in the MAAC. Sabrina Jeridore looked more aggressive in the early going, but she got bloodied up and had to sit for an extended period while the trainer went over her and her jersey with the peroxide. After that, she seemed to back off a little bit. I think that might have been when St. Peter's made one of their runs to get it under 20. Haley D'Angelo ran a solid offense, making sure everyone was going the right way and in the right place. She passed up two open shots that I thought she should have taken, which is something that bothers me about her, but that's the kind of player that she is. Aaliyah Robinson got the start, but she didn't play much. I'm starting to think Coach Bozzella does that in order to have some offensive punch off the bench; either the three games I've seen have been very uncharacteristic, or I've finally found a coach who agrees with the idea of striking fear into an opponent with a strategic reserve. Damika Martinez was great- aggressive going to the basket, careful with the ball when she had to run offense, accurate and smart. She had a couple of dumb plays, but other than that, she was fantastic.
One strange thing that bothered me a little about Iona: the fans, the cheerleaders, and the graphics really didn't get started until the Gaels were up 20. I'm sitting there thinking, guys, maybe they needed you before they started turning on the afterburners?. But that's just me. Props to the lady behind us who tried to get going, even with her scratchy throat.
Officiating was mostly unremarkable. I think I only shrieked once or twice. I think the refs controlled the pace of play well. The only issue came when St. Peter's committed their ninth foul on a loose ball play and the refs tried to set up an inbounds. Coach was not amused. Shot clock also started late once, but it didn't impact play.
CYO kids overran the court at halftime. It's okay, they were supposed to do that. They were also running around behind the benches for much of the game, until they left early in the second half. Not sure if they were supposed to do that, but the kid hiding behind me was sort of adorable.
I don't know how much of a test St. Peter's is, given that every Gael who played got at least 10 minutes, but at least they got some much needed reps for the bench.