Sunday, February 19, 2017

February 19th, 2017: Fairfield at Iona

Just the Facts, Ma’am: Iona finished strong behind solid performances from their seniors and a sophomore’s star turn, claiming the Senior Day win over Fairfield, 65-55. Alexis Lewis led all scorers with 21 in the win, with Karynda DuPree (20 points, 14 rebounds) and Marina Lizarazu (12 points, 10 assists, 7 rebounds) shining on their day. Casey Smith led Fairfield with 18 points in the loss.

For tears, translations, framed jerseys, slick passing, putting the dance back in dance team, wardrobe commentary, and the long way around, join your intrepid and achey blogger after the jump.

These were supposed to be the GNoD for Fordham’s Senior Day against Dayton. But it turns out Iona’s Senior Day celebrations are being done at their next to last home game, because it was easier to get Marina Lizarazu’s family in from Spain for today instead of for Wednesday. And to be frank, I’d rather watch Iona than Fordham. (And to be even more frank, Coach Godsey reached out to us first to let us know.) So we’ll be passing through the Bronx instead of stopping there.

Sure, now that we’re going to our more far-flung outposts, the MTA decides to do work on the J train and throw our travel plans into shambles. Sure. I mean, the J train does need work, and it’s nice to see them finally taking care of the brown lines, but the timing probably could have been better.

Welp. We were running short on time anyway, and the 6 train stopping and starting like a bad webcast has ensured that we’re not going to make the bus to Iona. It’ll be cab time, which I didn’t want to do, but these are the things we do for our teams, and I probably should have left the house earlier anyway. Moral of the story: trains are stupid. I’m amused that we keep ending up with the same cab driver. (Roosevelt is an uncommon enough first name that it sticks in the mind.)

Iona has the pale pink BHA shirts, but the Iona College motto of “Fight The Good Fight” actually works in this context.

This is going to be a double-header with the men, so it’s being taken fairly seriously. The student section has been taped off, and I suspect they’re enforcing ticket locations in the chairback seating.

I don’t recognize any of the people around us. I hope they understand that we’re behind the Iona bench. This seems to be a recurring theme with fans from Connecticut schools- they insist on sitting in the section where their team is warming up, even though people who know the game should know that you warm up at the basket you’re going to use in that half, and that’s almost always the basket in front of the opposing bench.

We have spotted flowers and framed jerseys.

The awkward part of sharing facilities is when you come up the stairs and smack into the middle of a baseball team meeting.

O HAI DERE. Look, I can totally window-shop, okay? And a very cute young man just sat in the row in front of me. There’s a non-zero possibility he’s Marina Lizarazu’s brother, though, and I don’t want to get that involved with my teams.

Heh. Cheerleader dancing just a little bit to the background music. She’s the only one.

Senior Day punched me in the heart with feelings, as one would expect. Iona followed the tradition set by Coach Godsey’s predecessor and presented flowers to the three Fairfield seniors. The two senior players got their NCAA tournament jerseys as their framed jerseys, which I thought was a really nice touch. (The really cute guy is definitely Marina’s brother. Her younger brother. Which means he is entirely too young for me. But he is cute.)

At halftime, it’s 27-24 Iona, behind a 10/10 double-double from Karynda DuPree and 11 points (including three threes) from Alexis Lewis. Fairfield’s offense seems really disorganized- when they get ball movement, they get buckets, but too often they seem to be trying to go one-on-one, which is not smart against Iona’s defense. Our defense as a team isn’t great, but we have good individual defenders, and the upperclassmen know how to provide help at the right times.

There are two guys behind us who seem to be behind the wrong bench. My dude, you are not supposed to cheer for the opposing team behind the home bench. It is rude.

What a finishing kick by the Gaels! I thought Fairfield had us dead to rights after that third-quarter run, but I think the buzzer-beating bucket by Amelia Motz was a momentum swinger and a game changer. The Gaels finished strong and made the right plays at the right time (though is there a wrong time to make the right play?)

(Just to show how tired and fried I am, I almost typed Sacred Heart in the last paragraph, before remembering that, no, that was yesterday’s Senior Day.)

Coach Frager seemed to be experimenting more with his bench in the first half, as if he were trying to see who could contribute and who couldn’t on this given day. So we saw Macey Hollenshead at guard and Nicole Bus at forward very briefly. Neither made a huge impact; the only reason I even noticed Hollenshead was the foul she committed during her second-quarter run.

Sam Kramer had a cheering section in the section across from the visiting bench; they had “GO SAM” placards that they raised whenever she came into the game. Since she was being used as the offensive half of what seemed to be an offense-defense switch with Casey Foley, the placards went up fairly often. She hit a three off a tough screen from Kristine Miller (I thought the screen was borderline- she didn’t move, but her form was all knees and elbows and very loose). Miller either had more trust from her coach, or he didn’t care if she got in foul trouble as much as he did about Kelsey Carey- when Carey picked up two fouls in the first quarter, it was off to the bench with her, but when Miller picked up two first quarter fouls, she stayed in and ended up picking up her third in the second. She’s tough.

Casey Foley was aggressive on defense. Iona telegraphed their passes too much around her, and her quick hands made us pay. Do not pass the ball to players who don’t play for your team. I should really remember more about Kendra Landy, since she played almost the entire game. I think she was another defensively aggressive guard who got all up on Iona’s ill-advised passes.

Casey Smith had herself quite the fourth quarter. She has a really nice array of turnaround moves and hook shots, and if she could hit any of them consistently she would proably be at a higher level than the MAAC. The moves are beautiful, but the execution was inconsistent. I was impressed with her, and the way she imposed her will on the Iona defense. Samantha Cooper cleaned up on the glass and hit from outside. We didn’t match up with her well. The puck luck was not with Kelsey Carey today; she had several shots spin in and out, including some that took strange bounces.

Fairfield came out in the second half much more focused on defense- their hands were more active early in the third quarter. But I don’t think they were able to sustain that energy, and Iona was able to withstand the surge.

Tori Lesko isn’t going to have as much of an impact on the box score as she did on the game. I’m starting to dig that that she’s hard to measure. But she scrapped for loose balls, and she has a passing flair that even our guards can’t match. Tori loves the lookaways and the spin-o-ramas, and there are going to be a lot of days when that makes me want to throw things, and there are going to be a lot of days where that gets the crowd on its feet. Kristin Mahoney was the sub for Marina Lizarazu’s exiting ovation, and she got free throws out of it. Ashley Martin got some brief run in the first half, and almost managed to screw up a fast break, except that she had a teammate back to help.

As Tori’s hit the rookie wall, Amelia Motz has risen. She had two big shots to beat the buzzer, one at the end of the third and one in the fourth at the end of the shot clock. She brought a lot of energy and hustle to the floor. She had a great defensive stand in the first half where she single-handedly turned away a Fairfield 3-on-1 fastbreak. Alexis Lewis brought the fire from outside. Strangely enough, she seems to shoot better from the basket opposite the visiting bench than she does the one in front of the home bench. So she’ll have a great first half but maybe cool down in the second half. She’s just so fun to watch. Everyone should get to see one of her good games. Marina Lizarazu wasn’t hitting early, but she hit big shots late, and she brought the flash with her passing. I think she was tight early because her family was there.

Karynda DuPree owned the boards early on. She got softer on defense as the game wore on- there was a sequence where she backed off on defense and ended up forcing Treyanna Clay into a situation where she had to foul. I’d like to see her finish more consistently, but at this point there’s only so much I can ask for. Karynda’s a senior in her last year of eligibility; there’s only so much more I can ask of her. I can ask for more out of Treyanna, though, since she’s a sophomore and she seems to have regressed from last year. She has to finish at the rim, and someone needs to work with her on defensive positioning. She was frustrating this game, and it’s not the first time I’ve thought that of her this season.

I really love these kids. I think they have the potential to do great things, though maybe not this year, and even when they’re not doing great things they’re a blast to watch.

It was good to hear the band getting into the game. This team deserves that kind of support.

Officiating was nothing to write home about, which I guess is a plus.

Shoutout to one of my favorite DOBOs and the blue dress she was rocking.

I know I’ll see this team again, but that doesn’t make the emotional impact of the day hurt any less. They just matter so much, you know?

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