Sunday, March 24, 2013

Women's Teams Don't View `Lesser' Events As Minor

The MAAC's participation in the NCAA tournament is over, after this weekend's first-round losses (and, no, we don't consider the "First Four" games, essentially play-ins, as first-round contests) by the Iona men and Marist women.

But, there are other tournaments with other MAAC teams participating.

And, despite some contention that the "lesser" national tournaments aren't very important. Well, don't tell that to the teams participating.

Any athlete with any sense of pride and an iota of competitiveness wants to continue to play meaningful games as long as possible. And, any coach wants to keep coaching, particularly when it means some "extra" games that not only serve as a reward, of sorts, for current team members but also helps the on-going development of players who will return in future years.

Does anyone think the Fairfield women didn't perceive their Women's Basketball Invitational (WBI) participation was meaningless?

Certainly not the stags, who dropped a 49-48 decision to Penn on a buzzer-beating three-pointer by all-Ivy League forward Alyssa Baron.

Trailing 46-43 with under 30 seconds left, Fairfield senior Katelyn Linney made a driving layup to pull her team to within a point. After a missed Penn free throw, senior Brittany MacFarlane grabbed the rebound and, then, sank a three-pointer to put the Stags ahead 48-46 with seven seconds left.

And, then, Baron made the heart-breaking shot as the buzzer sounded that ended Fairfield's season.

Just being in the game had to be a thrill for Fairfield, considering the playing site of the venerable Palestra in Philadelphia. The venue dates back to 1927 and is often referred to as the Cathedral of College Basketball. Without the WBI, Fairfield's players would have never played on that hallowed hardwood.

Or, does anyone think the Iona women's team wasn't playing as hard in its 59-50 loss to Drexel in a first round WNIT contest as it did in the MAAC tournament's championship game?

The Gaels had an early lead before Drexel, playing on its home court, got out to a 12-point lead with 17:29 remaining. Iona pulled back to within eight when sophomore guard Damika Martinez connected on her fifth three-pointer of the game with 7:53 left, but couldn't get closer down the stretch.

Martinez finished with a team-high 22 points and freshman teammate Joy Adams hauled down a career-high 21 rebounds. Those type numbers don't get recorded by players going through the proverbial motions.

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