Saturday, March 7, 2009

Form Holds Up in Women's Event

ALBANY, N.Y. - It will be No. 1 vs. No. 2 in Sunday's women's championship game.

Canisius didn't have its usual accuracy from three-point territory in its 62-55 victory over Fairfield in its semifinal contest, but, instead, got some strong inside play to make up the difference.

Marist got dominating games from its top two players, as well as some other strong play off the bench, in its 76-69 semifinal round victory over Iona.

The Gonden Griffins are now 24-7 overall, while Marist is 28-3. And, it only seems fitting that the conference's only two teams with more than 20 victories this season will meet in Sunday's championship game.

Canisius did get some strong perimeter play, particularly from senior guard Amanda Cavo, whose 5-of-10 shooting from beyond the bonus arc accounted for 15 of her team-high 18 points and all but two of the winners' seven three-pointers.

Cavo now has 265 career three-points, the second highest total of any active player nationally. Only Maryland's Kristi Tolliver has more (284 entering this weekend's play).

And, Canisius holds the NCAA record of consecutive games with at least one three-pointer, now at 451.

But the Griffs on Saturday also got strong inside play from the MAAC's Sixth Player of the Year, 6-1 forward Ellie Radke, who added 14 points and six rebounds.

Canisius coach Terry Zeh, though, says there's much more to his team than its ability to make long-range shots,

"Everyone always talks about our three-point shooting, but the 57.9 points per game we've allowed this season is the lowest average for our program on the Division I level," said the Canisius coach. "We've scored in different ways when we needed to. That's a veteran team that does that."

Canisius will need to play like a veteran team if it hopes to deny the Red Foxes a fourth straight tournament victory and resultant trip to the NCAA tournament.

By virtue of finishing second in the regular-season standings, though, Canisius can do no worst than get an automatic berth in the WNIT if it loses on Sunday, but it would be the conference's NCAA tournament representative if it upsets Marist.

Coincidentally, the last team other than Marist to win the conference tournament was Canisius, a 60-59 winner over the Red Foxes in the championship game of the 2005 event.

Marist, though, showed why it has dominated the MAAC in recent years with its victory over Iona.

Although the Red Foxes might not have been as much in control of the game as many expected, they made the requisite big plays to hold on for their berth in the finals.

Iona made things tight at the end, getting to within six, 73-67, with 1:10 remaining but could get no closer.

"That's why they call this survive and advance," said Marist coach Brian Giorgis. "We started slow and finished slow, but we played well in between.

"We got some great contributions from (forward) Lynzee Johnson (16 points, eight rebounds) to get us going and, our two first-team all stars showed why they were Player of the Year and a first-team pick."

Marist's Player of the Year, junior forward Rachele Fitz, had game-high totals of 29 points and 18 rebounds. First-team honoree senior guard Julianne Viani had 19 points.

Fitz was particularly impressive down the stretch, scoring 11 points in the final 6:15 to ensure Iona didn't pull off an upset.

Afterwards, Giorgis was asked what he needed to do to motivate his team for Sunday's championship contest.

"It's for the MAAC title ... if that's not enough to motivate anyone, then they shouldn't be here," said the Marist coach. "These kids know what it takes. We know Canisius will come to play, and after that it's just a matter of how well we execute."

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