Thursday, January 24, 2013

Iona Rebounds With Dominating Win Over St Peter's in MAAC Women's Basketball

Tony Bozzella's Gaels started the MAAC women's basketball season with a 3-0 start. All three wins were by double digits, including two wins on their Buffalo road trip over Canisius and Niagara, two teams picked in the top four in the preseason MAAC poll. The Gaels then dominated Manhattan at home, winning by thirty, 76-46.

But within the span of five days, the Gaels lost two in a row. First, Iona lost to Marist for the twenty seventh time in a row, a fourteen point defeat at the McCann Center. Then at home last Friday, the Gaels battled the Stags of Fairfield. Iona got within one point with four minutes left in the game, but couldn't get any closer as Fairfield won 60-54.

This is typical of a young team that has only one senior now that Haley D'Angelo has been granted another year of eligibility. Young teams are streaky, especially ones that start two juniors, one sophomore and two freshman with their sixth man being another sophomore. They look terrific for one stretch of time, then struggle for another stretch.

Their opponent last Sunday at the Hynes Center, St Peter's, had lost their first fifteen games, including five in conference. But three of their five MAAC losses were by single digits. Iona may have been expected to win. But having lost two in a row, the question was how would the Gaels respond in a game that some team might take lightly.

For the first two minutes of the game, Iona seemed in a fog. St Peter's was the more aggressive team and jumped out to an early 7-5 lead on a jumper by Jesika Holmes.

But the light switch turned on for the Gaels. They went on a 14-0 run which featured five straight points by an aggressive Sabrina Jeridore. Iona was up 19-7 after a Jiya Dorces-Eya layup.

The Peacocks were able to cut the deficit to ten, 22-12 with eleven minutes left in the half. But again the Gaels responded with another huge run. Iona outscored St Peter's 17-2 over the next four and a half minutes. Aleesha Powell, playing with confidence and in control, scored five straight points during that spurt. D'Angelo's layup capped the run and the Gaels were up 39-14 with six and half minutes remaining in the first half.

Iona entered the locker room up 48-25 at halftime. They had forced twelve St Peter's turnovers while only committing five themselves. The Gaels showed really good ball movement and were aggressive on the offensive glass. They had as many assists, eleven as they had offensive rebounds.

Powell and Damika Martinez already were in double figures scoring, each with eleven points. My color analyst, aka my son Matthew, who has attended many Iona women's games over the past three seasons noted "That's the most points I ever saw Iona (the women's team) score in a half." I had to concur.

Now with the game seemingly in hand, there's a tendency for teams to back off in the second half and not be as focused. Sure enough, St Peter's came out as the aggressor in the start of the second half. The Peacocks cut the lead to under twenty for the first time since eight minutes left in the first half. An Aziza May three pointer made the score 50-31.

Coach Bozzella could have called timeout here to get his team re-focused. Instead, he let his team refocus on their own. The Gaels responded with a 9-2 spurt as Joy Adams hit a three point play and then Martinez scored four straight points. Iona was up 59-33 with sixteen and a half minutes left in the game.

St Peter's though had one last run in them. The Peacocks outscored the Gaels 12-4. Kristal Edwards' jumper made the score 63-45.

But Iona also had one more run in them. Once again, the Gaels outscored the Peacocks 17-2, this time over an eight minute span. Adams and Powell combined for twelve of those points. Diana Hubbard capped the run with a three pointer, one of three on the day for her, to put Iona up 80-47 with less than five minutes remaining in the game.

Iona had as large as a thirty four point lead before winning by thirty two, 93-61. Bozzella extensively used his bench the entire game, with twelve players getting eleven or more minutes. The Gaels shot nearly fifty five percent in the second half and forty nine percent for the game. They had twice as many assists, twenty, as turnovers, ten.

Martinez led all scorers with nineteen points. Powell had a very strong game with fifteen points and five assists. Adams added fourteen points and nine rebounds. Jeridore had seven points, seven rebounds and four blocks. All eleven Iona players scored at least two points on the game. The Iona bench outscored the Iona starters 47-46.

Edwards led St Peter's with fifteen points. May added fourteen and Holmes chipped in with twelve points. The Peacocks were held to 37.5 percent from the field.

The Gaels have a very important battle for third place at home coming up against Niagara this evening, with a chance to sweep the season series from the Purple Eagles. They needed momentum going into the game and they got it on Sunday.

Perhaps it's the start of another successful stretch for this young team.

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