ALBANY, NY – The Iona College women’s basketball program fell to Siena at the Times Union Center on Sunday afternoon, 57-51. The Gaels had three chances to tie the game in the final 27 seconds but were unable to convert. With the loss, the Maroon & Gold are locked into the fifth seed for the upcoming MAAC Tournament.
The Saints came out hitting four of their first five shots and converting two and-one opportunities. Being down 13-6 come the first media break, Iona responded by hold Siena without a field goal for the final 5:07 of the frame. The Gaels generated a 13-3 run and took a 19-16 lead come the close of the first.
Senior Meghan Donohue, who led all scorers at halftime with 11 points, ended Seina’s field goal drought at 8:19 in the second. Sophomore Jackie Benetiz sunk a step-back three with 3:30 on the clock that gave Siena a 26-25 lead, but junior Philecia Atkins-Gilmore bounced Iona right back in front connecting on back-to-back possessions.
Siena was able to take a 31-30 lead into the locker room at the intermission behind a late triple sunk by senior Denisha Petty-Evans.
Both teams struggled with the long ball in the first half, combing to shoot 5-for-20 from beyond the arc. Siena attempted eight more free throw attempts and outrebounded the Gaels by three in the opening two frames. The Maroon & Gold took positive care of the ball, committing just four turnovers over the initial twenty minutes.
Senior Karynda DuPree played limited minutes in the half after picking up two early fouls in the first quarter. Fellow starter, freshman Amelia Motz also was whistled twice in the first half.
Three early buckets from junior Kollyns Scarbrough, two of which came on offensive put-backs, gave the Saints a 39-34 at the first media break of the second half. Benitez picked up her third foul with 4:51 left in the quarter while the Saints were up five, but Siena head coach Ali Jacques decided to leave her out on the floor for the remainder.
At that point Atkins-Gilmore came off the bench provided a spark; she scored five points over the final minute of the third to bring Iona within one possession, 46-43.
Iona came out in a press to start the fourth and within ninety seconds senior Marina Lizarazu gave the Maroon & Gold a 49-46 lead. Adding to the Saints woes, Benitez picked up her fourth personal foul when Lesko drew her second charge of the game with 8:13 remaining.
The tide turned when Siena freshman Sabrina Piper hit her first basket of the game to tie the game at 51 with 4:28 remaining on the clock. That as followed up with Petty-Evans hitting a runner to give Siena a 54-53 lead with 1:28 remaining.
Freshman Tori Lesko missed a jumper in the paint with 57 seconds remaining, and Donohue made the Maroon & Gold pay on the defensive end with a second-chance bucket to put the Gaels down three with 26.9 seconds remaining.
Following a timeout to advance the ball, sophomore Alexis Lewis missed a possible game-tying three. Petty-Evans went to the free throw line and missed a pair, leading to another possible game-ting chance for the Maroon & Gold.
With five seconds left on the clock Atkins-Gilmore missed a second game-tying chance. On the ensuing Saints inbound, the Gaels sent Piper to the line who missed both attempts again to give the Gaels a final chance to tie with 3.0 tics left.
On the inbounds play, Atkins-Gilmore stepped on the end line, turning over possession to the Saints with 1.5 seconds left to seal the defeat.
Lizarazu did everything she could to keep the Gaels in the contest; the three-time MAAC Player of the Week scored 11 points in the fourth quarter and finished the game leading the Maroon & Gold with 21 points. She also had a team-high five assists.
Donohue was the offensive center for Siena scoring 21 points and pulling down 11 rebounds. Scarbrough finished with 11 points, and Piper dished out a team-high three assists.
The Gaels will an immediate chance at redemption in their first MAAC Tournament game on Saturday, March 4 when they take on Siena once again. It’ll be the third straight year that the Maroon & Gold and Saints have matched up in postseason play.
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