Photo courtesy of Geraldo Rodriguez/Iona College Athletics.
By David Cordova
It is early March and a new season has dawned on everyone. The regular season is over and the playoffs are in session. The MAAC Tournament, which is taking place this weekend in Albany’s Times Union Center, is an event in which all eleven teams in the conference, regardless of a good or bad record, gets a chance to battle for the conference championship and an appearance in the NCAA Tournament.
In these two Saturday games, which showed a lot of excitement and plenty of competition, there could only be two teams that could move on to the semifinals to play against Monmouth, the regular-season champions and St. Peter’s.
For Iona, the defending MAAC champions, they would stay locked in attack mode from start to finish against a good Rider team that fought to get as close as seven in the second half. Then in the nightcap, in what was in essence a regular home game for Siena, they would withstand Fairfield rallies throughout the game, but they would eventually hold on for another night. The question now is which team would will be the one to hoist the trophy on Monday, March 6th? That remains to be seen, but here’s a look on how the quarterfinal games transpired:
Iona 88, Rider 70
The first couple of minutes of the game started out with Iona being dominant on offense, leading 5-1, with more than 18 minutes to go in the first half. They would then flex that lead to 13-6 with 14:06 left, behind the play of Rickey McGill.
Rider could not get their shots off efficiently and would allow the Gaels to attack the basket and shoot from long range, which would bring them up 23-8, with 11:24 left in the first half. More woes would continue for the Broncs as Iona would continue to take advantage of their weaknesses and raise their lead to nineteen, 32-11, with 7:57 left.
But Rider go on a run of their own, after a free throw by Norville Carey and shots by Stevie Jordan, Jimmie Taylor and Kahlil Thomas to cut the deficit to 35-22, with 4:54 left in the half. They would then cut the deficit once more to ten, 37-27, with 3:33 to go, but the Gaels would go into the half, leading by fourteen, 49-35. In the first half, Iona would shoot 48%, while Rider would shoot 35%.
The second half would show how poised Rider could be as the Broncs went on an 11-4 run to cut the deficit to seven, 53-46, with 17:15 to go, after a layup by Jordan. But the Gaels would still have their lead in the game, raising it up to twelve, 61-49, with 15:50 left. Moments later, Jordan Washington would hit a jumper from fifteen feet to bring their lead up to seventeen, 68-51, with 12:40 to go.
Although the Broncs tried to make a run in the second half, the Gaels would stick to their game plan, which would result in them moving on to the semifinals against St. Peter’s tomorrow night at 9:30 PM. McGill would lead Iona with 25 points, six assists and five rebounds, while Shadrac Casimir added 22 points and Washington would contribute 16 points and five rebounds. For Iona, Jordan led with 19 points and 12 rebounds, while Thomas added 13 points and 10 rebounds and Xavier Lundy would contribute 13 points and nine rebounds.
Siena 78, Fairfield 66
The game started out with Fairfield guards Jerome Segura and Tyler Nelson hitting two consecutive three-pointers to give the Stags a 6-2 lead with 19:08 to go. But moments later, two free throws by Marquis Wright and and five consecutive points by Brett Bisping would put the Saints ahead 9-6, with 16:12 to go.
The lead would go up to 20-8, in favor of Siena, with 11:19 left, as the Saints capitalized on their free-throw shooting and took some good shots. On the other end, Fairfield struggled to make shots and Siena would use that to their advantage.
But Fairfield would stay within eight, trailing 30-22, with 3:44 left, after another three-pointer by Nelson. Although the Stags stayed close, the Saints would hold tough, leading by eleven at halftime, 38-27. Throughout the first half, the Saints would shoot 44% and the Stags would shoot 32%.
As the second half progressed, Siena still stayed on top, leading by ten, 42-32, with 16:31 left in the game. But then Fairfield went on a 6-0 run to cut the deficit to 42-36, with 15:39 to go. They kept threatening the Saints lead as they forced them into turnovers and utilized their front court to stay in the game. A layup by Jerry Johnson, Jr. would then cut the deficit to five, 52-47, with 9:07 to go.
But then Siena would then go a 9-0 run, headed by Javion Ogunyemi, which would bring the Saints to a 61-47 lead with 6:53 to go in the game. The Stags tried their best to get closer, but the Saints would never look back and punched their ticket to the semifinals, where they would be playing the regular-season champions, Monmouth.
Ogunyemi led Siena with 24 points and nine rebounds, Lavon Long added 17 points and Bisping would contribute 12 points and 11 rebounds. For Fairfield, Nelson led with 25 points and Matija Milin would add 14 points in the loss.