Friday, March 4, 2011

Women: Jaspers' Edge at Point Gets Win

The benefits of a standout point guard?

They were obvious in Manhattan's 59-47 victory over Iona in a quarterfinal round game of the women's MAAC tournament Friday.

The Jaspers' senior Abby Wentworth not only had a game-high 14 points, but had four assists, five steals and directed her team's play at both ends of the court.

Iona has played most of the season without its standout senior court general, Suzi Fregosi, who suffered an early season hip injury and could not return.

"It's tough to lose an all-league caliber player, and at a time when we didn't have any time to prepare for her loss," admitted Iona coach Tony Bozzella, about Fregosi's loss.

Conversely Wentworth's play, and that of other teammates who handled the ball, were instrumental against the near game-long iona pressure defense they faced from Iona. But that strategy didn't rattle the winners enough.

Manhattan committed a very reasonable 15 turnovers, while the Gaels committed 18 miscues in the contest.

Surprisingly, Wentworth never played point guard at the college level until this season but has made a seemingly seamless transition.

"She was our '3' (small forward) last year," explained Manhattan coach John Olenowski. "Can I explain how much she means to our team this year? I don't know if I have enough time.

"What she does is run the offense. She makes good passes. She scores. She is a leader on defense. On the defensive end she's all over. She covers everything. She covers all five positions at times. To me she means everything to our program."

Wentworth came into Friday's game averaging 14 points, a league-best 4.2 assists and 2.8 assists, second best in the conference.

Wentworth's work has helped the Jaspers win 22 games thus far, just the third 20-win season in program history.

The Portland, Me., native, though, claims here adjustment to running the team this season hasn't been much of a problem.

"I was the point guard for our high school team," she said. "And, I knew I'd be moving there since the end of last season. So, in summer open-gym games I played the point in order to help me be ready for this season."

Manhattan also got a tournament boost with the return of Maggie Blair to the court. Blair, who suffered a late-season injury, returned after missing the previous six games.

The 5-foot-10 sophomore guard chipped in with four points, seven rebounds, four assists and two steals.

"We had hoped to have her for five or 10 minutes today and she gave us 25 minutes," added Olenowski.

NOTES: Bozzell said that Fregosi would return to Iona next season. "She qualified for a (medical) redshirt by one game," explained the Gaels' coach.

Iona's top player this season was 6-foot-1 junior forward Kristina Ford, who averaged 11.8 points and 6.1 rebounds per game.

"To be honest, she did not play up to her potential," said Bozzella, about Ford. "She is a wonderful young lady, but she needs to learn to be able to utilize all her talent. She can be much better. For her to be a third-team all-MAAC pick ... that's a disappointment. i expect her to be a Player of the Year candidate next season."

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