Friday, March 2, 2012

Niagara Women Continue Positive Turnaround

You can point to a number of turnarounds in the year-long improvement for the Niagara women's basketball team, but the Purple Eagles aren't looking back at those. They prefer to enjoy the moment.

An 0-18 conference record last season? Niagara has certainly bounced back from that, finishing 9-9 in the regular season.

A 20-point loss to Loyola on Jan 29? The Purple Eagles have bounced back from that, too, getting revenge at the most-meaningful time with a 77-63 victory over the Greyhounds in Friday's quarterfinal-round game of the MAAC women's tournament.

"It wouldn't matter what our record was last year, we're happy to get this win," said Niagara coach Kendra Faustin. "Loyola is a very good team. They've got two first-team all-conference players (junior Katie Sheahin and senior Miriam McKenzie), and thinking about those two kept me awake a few nights this week."

If there's any sleepless night tonight, it will be Loyola having nightmares about an expected strong season ending far too soon and with a less-than-expected 13-17 overall record after being picked to finish second in the preseason coaches' poll.

"The word I'd use to describe our season would be `inconsistent,` " said Greyhounds' coach Joe Logan. "Much of that was a product of players getting injured. Just when we'd get something going someone else would go down."

Even though the Greyhounds were at full strength in Friday's game, they could do no better than pull within a pint, 47-46, with 9:28 remaining before the winners scored the next seven points and 12 of the next 15 to take a 59-49 advantage and Loyola never got closer than four again.

Sheahin led Loyola with 21 points and eight rebounds. Niagara's effort was balanced with five players scoring between 10 and 14 points.

And, now, Niagara has one more outcome it would like to reverse when it meets top-seeded Marist in Saturday's 11:30 a.m. semifinal-round contest.

The last time the two teams met Marist needed two overtimes to knock off Niagara, 79-77, on Feb. 19.

"That was one of the best games I've ever been associated with," said Faustin. "Meeting them again ... it's a big challenge for us. But we'll talk about all the same things we talk about all the time."

"We just have to focus on what we do every day and leave it all on the court," added Niagara's freshman forward Val McQuade.

And, hope for one more turnaround..

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