Friday, December 13, 2019

December 8th, 2019: Seton Hall at Iona

Just the Facts, Ma'am: Seton Hall came out of the gate strong and never looked back in an 89-37 pounding of Iona. Desiree Elmore had 17 points and 10 rebounds to lead the Pirates. Shyan Mwai had 13 to lead the Gaels.

For redecorating, reorienting, reordering, revisiting, and wrecking, join your intrepid and alliterative blogger after the jump.

We're back in the saddle again, apparently determined to take every train in the Bronx at some point this year. Seton Hall visits Iona, and that's a game I wouldn't miss for the world. As the song lyric goes, "we have history, or don't you remember?" That's where we got entangled in this ever-more-complex network of friendships and loyalties, back when Tony Bozzella coached the Gaels and Lauren DeFalco and Marissa Flagg were among his point guards. And that's where we finally gave up one of our core teams, when Alexis Lewis and her classmate Treyanna Clay transferred out and loyalty no longer compelled us to follow a coach we didn't respect.

Rumor has it there will be a slew of alumnae in attendance. I'm looking forward to some high-quality people-watching.

"Oh, you've redecorated," the "I don't like it" edition: Iona has added fancy new modern academic buildings without considering the aesthetic of the existing campus, and it looks like someone with no imagination was playing with Legos in the middle of a Christmas village.

"Oh, you've redecorated," the "I love it!" edition: the Hynes Athletic Center has gotten quite the makeover, with a change in orientation, new bleachers, fancy new seats, shiny new scoreboards, and a maroon paint job so fresh I can still smell it. Having but a single entrance for public use, and having that entrance lead directly behind the field of play (to the point where I was stepping around the mop) seems like a bad idea. It's a good thing we get in early. I can't imagine what that's going to look like ten minutes before game time.

There is a woman in the Seton Hall section with a purse made from a Spaulding basketball, and I mentally went full Gollum. We wants it, we wants the preciousssssss.

Iona's band is prepared for war. They have a piper. Yes. Someone just rolled up with a set of bagpipes. And they didn't even play the pipes.

Another member of the Iona-Seton Hall blended family, Aleesha Powell, is currently socializing behind the Pirates' bench.

Today I learned that platinum blonde dye jobs run in families! That is... wow, that's bright. If we stick her behind the basket, we might be able to distract Iona at the line. (I fully expect to be closer to the "Damika's Aunt Helen" end of the scale than the "polite visiting fan" end of the scale today.)

It's 39-17 Seton Hall at halftime, and I still demand more. Officials are letting a lot of contact go, and from the chirping, this is not a good plan, especially when they're calling cheap hand-check fouls. (Lauren Park-Lane is probably especially salty about her third, given that Iona traveled three steps with the ball before she made contact.) Shyan Mwai is the Iona offense, with 13 of their 17 points. Desiree Elmore has 12 for Seton Hall.

I know there are other alumnae here, but I don't recognize them. It's been a long time. And yet being in this building is enough to stir memories of "Let's go Gaels" and "I-O-N-A!" and "go, fight, win".

Not gonna lie, watching Selena Philoxy get her groove thang on to every piece of music she hears, even during timeouts, is a joy and a delight. Even if she probably should be focusing more on the content of the timeout meeting. And I'm also not sure what the protocols are around dancing to the other school's fight song.

That went about how I was expecting, except for our inability to hit free throws and maybe Iona's inability to shoot anything except their own feet. If you can't hit shots, hit the other team.

(New York subway justice: the dude blasting music from his speaker yelling at the dude with the cigarette.)

I shouldn't really be surprised that Jodi-Marie Ramil has fallen as far down the bench as she has. Her hands aren't great, and she missed multiple point-blank shots right at the rim. She slapped the taste out of a couple of weak shots right at the basket. But those shots came from players at the end of the bench, and something tells me most players are going to come at her stronger. De'jah Williams is a bruiser, and admittedly a good first impression is not attempting to put one of my players in a reverse chokehold. She has potential, or at least she would have potential if I thought she had a coach who would help her shore up her weaknesses. She's short for a post, but she's tough. Gabrielle Joseph's communication skills, especially for a sophomore, impressed me; she was out there relaying signals and calling out screens (I think it was her calling out a screen that got the refs to notice Selena Philoxy's screen was not as good as it should have been, resulting in an offensive foul). I'd like for her to pick on someone her own size, though; she put a couple of hits on Lauren Park-Lane that did not please me.

Lucia Becerra Perez popped off the bench and gave the Gaels good minutes at guard- she actually started the second half over Paulla Weekes. If she had better footwork, she'd be a good point guard. But she traveled, and she was careless with the ball. These are habits that can be broken, one presumes. Monica Barefield had a couple of good open looks from the left wing for three very late in the game, when Seton Hall was mostly just trying to avoid fouling. Again, I'm surprised she's slid as far down the rotation as she has, but then again, Billi Chambers's coaching decisions are best epitomized by the shrug emoji.

Juana CamiliĆ³n has got to stop traveling. She got called for the extra step again and again, and there were at least as many times when she didn't get called for it. If she had a better grasp of the fundamentals, she'd be a star. But she doesn't, so she produces more turnovers than an average bakery instead. Shyan Mwai was the only bright spot for the Gaels in the first half, hitting threes and getting inside for lay-ups. We did a better job on her in the second half, but she also went the bad kind of wild when she had open looks and sent them everywhere but the bottom of the basket.

Tori Lesko is not the player she once was, and it's kind of sad to see. As one of the only players to make it through all four years with Billi Chambers, it seems like she deserves better But the knee injury has robbed her of whatever speed she once possessed, and she either couldn't or wouldn't shoot against our defense. I mean, we did match up well at her position, but still. You genuinely do hate to see it. Morgan Rachu did a good job on the boards, though some of it was as much hockey-style boarding as it was basketball-style boarding. She's not afraid to throw her body around. Her three-point shot was not going down, although her form is decent. Her choice in number pretty much forced that, I'd say. (Yes, I am still annoyed that anyone is wearing #14 for Iona. It's not like Damika Martinez finished among the top scorers in D-I history, after all. It's not like she owns pretty much every record in Iona history and MAAC history OH WAIT.) Paulla Weekes exists. She went out of the game pretty quickly, and I'm not sure she even played in the second half. If you want more than that, play more.

Today I learned that Jocelyn Jones is in fact playing this year for Seton Hall, as she checked in late in garbage time. My understanding is that she was injured, and she looked like a player trying to get herself back into playing shape. That's a whole lot of woman. Whitney Howell came in at the same time, and couldn't quite catch the high pass from McKenna Hofschild. Kailah Harris got some good boards down low. I like her and her stylish goggles. I don't know if the goggles do anything or not, but they look cool. Selena Philoxy brought her usual physicality and multiple moments of "WHAT ARE YOU DOING WHY ARE YOU LIKE THIS". Alexia Allesch got a couple of good looks right at the basket and took advantage of them. I know she likes to take threes, but she really seems to have found a niche in the post, and I hope she becomes more willing to use it next year.

McKenna Hofschild ran a fair amount of point guard in the second half, and made it clear that she was looking to pass first and foremost. She showed off some fancy no-look stuff. Undersized with a penchant for showmanship? I can't imagine how she ended up at Seton Hall. Jasmine Smith shot a lot of threes. She shot a lot of them in the fourth quarter, which I don't think was Coach Bozzella's game plan. He did not look happy about the number of shots she took early in the shot clock, in any case. My Jackson got some good run early, which gave us the luxury of testing out the guards further back in the rotation in the second half. Victoria Keenan was the one everyone on the bench was rooting for, and when the first corner three went in, the regulars went a little nuts.

Lauren Park-Lane got into foul trouble in the second quarter on cheap reach-in fouls, and then the fourth foul in the third quarter got her extremely upset because it was a very cheap call that could have been a no-call or even an out-of-bounds on Iona. She didn't get a chance to prove much, but she doesn't have a lot to prove. Barbara Johnson was just about the only Pirate who had trouble shooting from the field- for whatever reason, even her open looks weren't going down.

Desiree Elmore started the game like a house on fire- in fact, looking back now, thanks to my color-coded score card, her eight points were more than Iona managed as a team for the first quarter. She got putbacks, she hit from the midrange, she drove and scored. Des is the queen of stealing the spotlight, and I mean that as a compliment. Put Shadeen Samuels on the watch lists? Des will put up the big numbers. Homecoming for the Iona exes? Des will steal the show. I don't know if she has a pro game, or if she's going to be stuck in tweener limbo. But she's been so much fun to watch for Seton Hall. Alexis Lewis was definitely too amped for this game in the early going- when she missed, she missed hard and she missed long. She made up for it on the offensive glass and with blocked shots. I recall one sequence where she got the block, the board, and a fantastic save, or something to that effect, and yelling, "Don't you wish you had someone like that? OH WAIT" at the Iona bench. Me? Petty? Whatever gave you that idea? Shadeen Samuels looks like she's still getting back into game shape- once or twice it looked like she wasn't getting as far up as she usually does- but you know, I don't think the kid from Ossining was going to miss the game in Westchester County. Pretty sure there's a bus you can take for that kind of thing. (My great Westchester bus adventure, which had a crucial transfer in Ossining, connected through White Plains, but I think there's an alternate route through New Rochelle.) She did an especially good job reading offensive rebounds.

Adventures with intros! Credit where credit is due, Iona gave a warm welcome back to the two alumnae and former coach on the Seton Hall bench, and gave Lexi Lewis pride of place at the end of intros... which no one seemed to realize, because they announced Des and Lexi came out. Mildly awkward, but I don't think it was intentional.

Iona seems to get frustrated easily, and when they get frustrated, the shoulders go out and the feet slip out a little bit. The discipline is lacking, and that starts at the top. It really seemed like Seton Hall's bench was pushing harder than they had to in the fourth quarter, and I'm reminded of something Geno Auriemma once wrote about the end of the bench in blowouts. I'm doing a lot of paraphrasing here, but basically, he intimated that in a game where the margin needs to be managed, it might be better to have your starters in, because the reserves are out there trying to prove themselves and thus aren't going to let up on the gas, even when they're up obscene amounts.

Officiating was so-so. I thought they let a lot of things go that could have gotten ugly, with the elbows and the shoulders. I suspect Lauren Park-Lane agrees with this assessment.

I'm disappointed in what Iona's become. There's potential there- Chambers does seem to be able to recruit. But she can't retain and she can't coach.

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