Friday, March 4, 2011

Women: Siena Survives Against Fairfield

The oldest cliche in post-season basketball is probably "Survive and Advance."

But, how do you survive a 7-point first half on a beyond-miserable 12-percent shooting from the field?

The Siena women's basketball team did it in its quarterfinal conference tournament game against Fairfield, earning a 36-33 victory on Friday.

The cliche doesn't require or measure style points. It's only concerned with advancing in tournament play.

The Saints advanced with a smothering defense of its own, and a little better offensive efficiency in the second half.

"First, I was very pleased with our defense in the first half," said Saints' coach Gina Castelli, whose team kept the game close by limiting Fairfield to just 15 first half points in a game that set the new tournament low for points scored in a game by both teams.

"At hafltime we spoke about just playing together offensively. We had taken a lot of quick shots. We talked about just moving the ball better."

Siena wasn't exactly a second-half dynamo on the offensive end after the intermission, but it made the requisite big plays.

None were bigger than a step-back 3-pointer by senior point guard Missy Ramsey that pulled Siena to within 31-30 with 3:12 remaining.

Ramsey, Siena's lowest-scoring starter (2.6 points per game) made only one other basket in the contest.

"I definitely didn't hesitate to take that shot," said Ramsey, afterwards. "We just talked about staying together on the offensive end, to have less one-on-one play in the second half. To win, we had to use each other."

Ramsey took advantage of her teammates drawing most of Fairfield's defensive attention to get a wide-open look on her big late-game shot.

Fairfield guard Desiree Pina countered with her own big shot, a 17-footer seconds later to push Fairfield's lead back to three, but the Stags couldn't score again against the winners' defensive pressure.

Saints' senior center Serena Moore, the league's leading scorer who was held to just four points during the contest's first 39 minutes, then went 4-for-4 from the foul line in the closing minute and teammate Christina Centeno (Siena's second-leading scorer on the season), added two more free throws, her only points of the game, with 2.2 seconds remaining to secure the victory.

Despite struggling against Fairfield's double- and triple-teams against her, Moore still had 10 rebounds and four blocks in the contest.

"Our kids did a tremendous job preparing for this game ... we didn't lose for a lack of desire," said Fairfield coach Joe Frager, whose team finishes 17-13 overall. "It will be a long time before I can talk about how disappointing this was to us."

His counterpart, Siena's Castelli, was just pleased to have survived and advance.

"I'm just so happy for this team," she said. "We just hung together and fought to the end. We never gave up.'

Siena, which finished with an 11-7 regular-season conference record (its best since the 2003-04 season) is now 14-15 overall and gets the unenviable task of meeting top-seeded Marist (28-2), riding the nation's longest 24-game winning streak.

The game marked the sixth time in the last seven years the programs have meet in a first-round tournament game. Fairfield had won four of the previous five. Of the past seven tournament meetings, including Friday's contest, four have been decided by three points or fewer and another went into overtime.

No comments: