Face of Siena basketball leaves sweat, tears on court

Tay Fisher was usually the first one on the practice court for Siena this season. Always eager to st

TAMPA, Fla. — Tay Fisher was usually the first one on the practice court for Siena this season.

Always eager to start, Fisher was reluctant to have it all end on Sunday, keeping his trademark white headband on well after Villanova had ended the Saints’ season and Fisher’s career, 84-72, in the second round of the NCAAs at the St. Pete Times Forum.

The face of Siena basketball, as Cory Magee called his teammate, finally collapsed in tears on Sunday, and his eyes were still red-rimmed as he discussed the end of his career, and the Saints’ remarkable run this season.

The enduring image, though, will be of Fisher snapping off a three-pointer, his specialty. He got in one last lick, popping a long one with no hesitation right after coming into the game to cut Villanova’s lead to 21-10. He was also a model of poise and professionalism, a vital comp­onent on a young team.

“Well, you know, it was tough to watch,” Siena head coach Fran McCaffery said. “He was a mess. He was in tears coming off the floor. As he usually does, he gave us a tremendous lift when we put him in. He got five right away. He played with great energy, as he always does.”

“I’m kind of out of words,” the loquacious senior said. “We were right there, I mean, we were right there, and today things just weren’t going our way. I tried my best, I really did. Everybody here is a family, so it was a great moment, it was great to experience the NCAA tournament, and we did upset teams and we did compete. I think we did get a lot of people’s attention, with our talent and our program. I’m pretty sure this is not the end of it. You can close my book on me if you want to, but I know there’s still more left.”

The Kingston native saved his best for last.

He made six of 10 three-pointers in the Metro Atlantic Athletic Conference championship victory over Rider, and made all six of his threes in Siena’s 83-62 victory over Vanderbilt in the first round of the NCAAs.

He played 15 minutes against Villanova, giving the Saints a boost midway through the first half when it looked like the Wildcats were on the verge of breaking it open.

After making his three-pointer, he got right back to business on the next possession with another attempt from deep range, drawing a foul. He made two of three free throws to pull Siena within 21-12.

“He came in and gave us a big lift right away. He got five points right off the bat when we were really struggling,” McCaffery said. “Defensively, he was really trying to pick us up. He made a couple of mistakes fouling a three-point shooter, but he’s going to be aggressive, that’s how he is.

“We turned him loose. It would have been easy for him to start jacking shots late. They were flying at him every chance, and switching out on him, so he wasn’t taking contested, bad shots.”

As disappointed as he was to see his season and career end, Fisher was proud of the fact that he was the only player to stay with the program when McCaffery was hired three seasons ago.

“It’s really difficult to put into words what Tay has meant, certainly to me and the program and the young players,” McCaffery said. “He’s going to be somebody remembered in the Albany area for a very, very long time. He’s always been a crowd favorite because of his personality, but more importantly because of his tremendous work ethic and desire, and you saw it again today. He leaves everything out there.”

“With him leaving, somebody is going to have to step up and make big shots,” Kenny Hasbrouck said. “We need a shooter, but you’re never going to have another Tay Fisher on your team.”

“Everything’s going to come to me,” Fisher said. “That’s how I approach life, that’s how I approached here. I let everything come to me and didn’t force anything, and look at the outcome.

“I’m still talking as if I’m still on the team next year, but that’s just the way I am, man.”

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