Iona's freshman guard tandem of Damika Martinez and Aleesha Powell didn't play like first-year college players in their team's 61-60 overtime victory over Rider in the MAAC women's tournament's first-round game.
Well, at least not for most of the game.
Powell exhibited freshman tendicies for just one play, missing a pair of free throws with 18 seconds left in regulation that would have extended the Gaels' two-point lead. When she missed those it enabled the Broncs to get a put-back bucket by MyNeshia McKenzie as time ran out to create the extra session.
And, then, Iona's freshmen took over combining for all of the winners' seven points in OT. And Powell more than redeemed herself for her lapse at the end of relation with a driving game-winning basket with 2.9 seconds left.
"When I hit that, I just felt relief," said Powell. "I was getting to the basket most of the game, so on that last play (after a missed Rider free throw), I wanted to push the ball down court get to the basket and either make the shot or get fouled. If I got fouled, I was going to knock down the free throws that time."
She didn't have to, and Iona advances to meet second-seeed Fairfield in a 9:30 a.m. game tomorrow in the event's quarterfinal round at the MassMutual Center.
The contest was a battle of teams both playing without their usual point guards. Iona's standout Suzi Fregosi, the conference's assist leader, is out for the tournament with a recurrence of hip woes that forced her to miss much of the 2010-11 season. And, Rider is without its senior point guard Alyssa Parsons, who tore an ACL in her right knee in a game this past Friday and is through as a college player.
In their respective absences, though, Iona got a 5-assist, one-turnover effort from Haley D'Angelo in 36 minutes at the point, while Rider got 13 points and three assists from freshman Kornelija Valisukyte in 37 minutes running the team.
The Gaels, though, advanced because its freshman backcourt played like seasoned veterans. They combined for 41 points (22 for Powell and 19 for Martinez, the league's leading scorer). But, they were most productive as the game was on the line.
Together, Powell and Martinez scored 32 of Iona's final 34 points.
"Those two have played huge games throughout their careers, both at high-level high schools," said Iona coach Tony Bozzella. "We see it from them every day in practice. There has not been one time all year that I have had to tell them to go harder. We've had eight or 10 good freshmen here over the year, and you always have to tell them to go harder at some point, but not with these two.
"At this point we don't look at them as freshmen. We just look at them as ball players."