ALBANY, N.Y. - The best game by far of the tournament thus far ... and, it will be hard to imagine a better one happening too often ... came when the third-seeded Fairfield women held on against No. 6 Siena for a 61-55 overtime decision in a women's first-round contest.
Those who closely followed Siena this season know the team faced some adversity, and had more of that on its hands Friday.
The Saints dismissed their best player from the program prior to the season due to an undisclosed violation and, then, had to enter Friday's game without their starting point guard, junior Merrick Volpe, who suffered a concussion in a recent practice.
And, then, the Lady Stags seemed to break the game open early with a 34-18 advantage with 5:15 remaining in the first half.
But Siena's defense stiffened, holding Fairfield to just 19 points over the next 25 minutes.
The Saints even gained a 55-53 advantage with nine seconds remaining when sophomore forward Serena Moore spun into the lane for a bucket.
Fairfield called a time out with 5.6 ticks left, inbounded the ball from just inside of half court into the hands of first-team all-league forward Beandu Lowenthal, who turned around and dropped in a short jumper to tie things up and force the extra session.
Once there, Siena missed all six shots from the field, and all three free throws it took while failing to score in the final five minutes.
Lowenthal made a basket early in the extra session, added a free throw for a 58-55 Fairfield edge with 1:59 and the winners held on and moved on.
Lowenthal finished with a 18 poi8nts and eight rebounds, while point guard Megan Caskin had eight assists and five turnovers.
Siena's 6-foot-2 senior center Heather Stec (who this blogger firmly believes should have been a first-team all league pick instead of a second-team selection) finished with 18 points and 16 rebounds.
Moore added 16 points and eight rebounds, whole freshman guard Cristina Centano, starting in place of Volpe, played 43 minutes and scored eight points while picking up eight assists.