Saturday, December 22, 2012

Back in the New York Groove (Recap of Colgate vs. Iona Women's Basketball Game)

For the sixth time in four months, I flew from Charlotte International airport back to New York and the fifth time from Gate D4, the "official" gate of Jet Blue to JFK.  As has been the case, the five previous times I came in from Charlotte, my wife was there to greet me at the baggage claim.   It was the first time she was there without the kids since she had a Christmas party she had to attend at her job.  Her parents were watching our two sons at our house.

When we got home, my older son, aka my color analyst Matthew, was wide awake, but my younger son, Jonathan, was fast asleep.  Matthew was happy to see me, but he seemed more interested in his macaroni and cheese and one of the Ice Age movies as I had to practically beg for a hug.  Ah seven year olds.

Yesterday morning, I was the first one up.  As with this article, I was in the entertainment room reviewing what trains I had to take for my trip into the city yesterday.  Jonathan, who would make an excellent spy, was in usual stealth mode and snuck up and said "DADDY!"  I got the biggest hug and he sat with me on the chair as I finished reviewing the subway map of New York City.

Jonathan and I each had a bowl of cereal and watched "Tom and Jerry" together on Boomerang.  Boomerang put us in the Christmas spirit by playing the classic "The Night Before Christmas" episode.   Shortly thereafter, Matthew came down, came up to me and said "I want to spend a lot of time with you today" and curled up into me.  I was so choked up, I couldn't reply immediately.  I just hugged him for a minute and finally said "I will".  Matthew is used to me only being home a few days and didn't realize that I would be in New York for eleven days due to my holiday break at South Carolina.

After both kids went to school, my wife dropped me off at the Bellmore Train Station to take a train into the city.   I was heading to New York Law School for a work related matter and to visit two old friends there I used to work with at Hofstra, Oral Hope and Pete Trimarchi.  I was there for ninety minutes looking over a very impressive building with great views of Tribeca and the city.  Finally I had to say my goodbyes to Oral and Pete and head towards Canal street for the second part of my day.

I took the number six train from Canal street north to Grand Central Station.   I was meeting my friend Tieff at the famous Grand Central clock above the Metro North Information Booth to take a train up to New Rochelle.   If that sounds familiar to my marines, aka the few, the proud, the readers of my site, that's where Iona College is located.  Yes, I was heading there to see Coach Tony Bozzella's Gaels take on Colgate.

I have been to Grand Central before, most recently last year to hang out with a good friend, the beautiful Cecilia Guerra, for drinks at one of the great bars located in the lower concourse and then we met up with another good friend, Andrew Wilson for a dinner at a Mexican restaurant nearby Grand Central.  This time, I was standing in the middle of the station, trying to avoid passersby and tourists taking pictures of their loved ones in front of the famous clock.  As it always is with Tieff, he was running late and got there a few minutes before the 1:10 New Haven train was leaving.  But, I came prepared having already bought two one way tickets for New Rochelle.

We made our train to New Rochelle.  Our friend Mal was picking us up at the Chase Manhattan building right near the New Rochelle terminal.  But as we got off the train, we had a surprise.  The great Jaden Daly, author of the Daly Dose of Hoops site, where I have been a contributor a couple of times this season, had been on the previous train to New Rochelle.  We had been in touch via Twitter and Jaden decided to wait for us at the station.  We talked hoops as we normally do as we walked to meet Mal, who drove us to Iona College.

We got to the Hynes Center just in time for the national anthem and walked into the gym during introductions.  Coach Bozzella smiled as we said hi and made our way up to seats behind the Iona bench.  The Gaels hadn't played in two weeks due to finals but they had a nice crowd, larger than anticipated, there to greet them back to the land of non conference Division I conference basketball.

Last season, Iona played at Colgate.  The Raiders ran out to a 46-18 halftime lead.  The Gaels could never recover and lost 75-50.  Several of the players from that Colgate team returned for yesterday's game, including sophomore Mariah Jones, who scored fifteen points in the win over Iona.

In the first ten minutes, you could tell Iona hadn't played in two weeks.  They struggled holding onto the ball, committing ten turnovers.  Fortunately, the Gaels were playing good defense and the Gaels led 8-7 nearly halfway through the first half.

Bozzella went to a smaller lineup and something clicked with this young Iona team (only one senior on the team, starting guard Haley D'Angelo).  The Gaels rolled off a 20-3 run over the next seven minutes.  Freshman forward Joy Adams scored eight of those twenty points and Iona had a 28-10 lead.

During this run, Adams drove for an impressive layup. It was right after this that Jaden and I noticed Coach Bozzella actually smile during a game for one of the rare times we could remember.  Freshman Aaliyah Robinson finished the first half by burying a three pointer and the Gaels went into the locker room up 36-17 at the half. Iona shot exactly fifty percent from the field in the first half.

After being a guest of the always terrific radio play by play man of the Iona Gaels, Nick Guerriero, on the halftime show, I was looking forward to see how this Gaels team would play in the second half.  Young teams often find it difficult to play consistently over forty minutes.    The Gaels wouldn't disappoint me in the second half.

Iona went out on a 15-6 spurt over the next six minutes to go up 51-23 with fourteen minutes left in the game. Freshman point guard Aleesha Powell scored seven of those points whole Damika Martinez added six points during that spurt.  Powell was particularly impressive in the second half, scoring ten points in the final twenty minutes of the game.  She was also very much under control and shot three of five from beyond the arc and six of ten from the field for the game.

Bozzella rested his starters for much of the second half.  Eleven players played seven or minutes on the day.  But the reserves didn't let up on the Raiders as the Gaels lead never dipped below twenty three points the rest of the way.  After losing to the Raiders by twenty five points a year ago, the Gaels returned the favor, leading from start to finish as they won by twenty six points, 73-47.

Martinez led all scorers with seventeen points, while Powell added fifteen points and Adams added another double double with ten points and twelve rebounds.  D'Angelo had a strong game at point guard with six assists and only one turnover.   In the final thirty minutes of the game, Iona had twenty assists and only seven turnovers.

The Gaels also did a terrific job on defense. They held the Raiders to twenty seven percent shooting from the field and had fifteen steals, scoring sixteen points off turnovers.  Finally, Colgate's Jones, who had scored fifteen points vs. Iona in the Raiders' win last season, was held scoreless on the day, with only five shot attempts for the game.

Afterwards, Mal, Tieff and I went up to see Coach Bozzella (Jaden left to cover the St John's game last night), Associate Head Coach Christi Abbate and Assistant Coach Lauren DeFalco.  It was good to be around so many old friends again.  We talked about our families, our Christmas plans, college basketball of course, golf and the next women's game against Stony Brook on December 30.

This was the first of many New York college basketball games that I will be attending over the next several days while I am back up here.  After every Iona women's game, the PA system plays "Back in the New York Groove" .

While it lasts, it truly is good to be back in a New York college basketball groove.

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