Short-handed Siena can finish as a champ in WBI

Siena, with only seven players on its women's basketball team, plays Louisiana-Lafayette in WBI titl
Tehresa Coles and the Siena  women's basketball team will play Louisiana-Lafayette for the Women's Basketball Invitational championship today.
Tehresa Coles and the Siena women's basketball team will play Louisiana-Lafayette for the Women's Basketball Invitational championship today.

Siena came so close to hosting today’s Women’s Basketball Invitational championship game that the Saints could taste it.

They were huddled together Thursday night watching a live stream of the Louisiana Ragin’ Cajuns rallying from a 19-point deficit to beat Oral Roberts, 65-64, on Simone Fields’ three-point play with 18 seconds left. If Oral Roberts had hung on, the title matchup would have been at the Alumni Recreation Center, where more than 1,000 fans watched the Saints defeat Mercer in the semifinals.

But in truth, despite the fact that the Saints would have loved to play for a title in front of their home fans, the “Magnificent Seven” have proven to be one of the nation’s top road teams, winning 12 games away from home, the third-best total in Division I. They could just as easily be called the “Road Warriors.”

Siena (22-12) continues its improbable yet magical season against 22-12 Louisiana in Lafayette, La. Game time is 5 p.m.

“We were really close to getting that home game, but we will try to bring the title back home,” said senior guard Tehresa Coles, from Colonie. “They’ve got a great team, and we’re not going to take them lightly. They are very quick with a high-energy press.

“This is absolutely amazing,” Coles said. “This is a dream come true for me to play my final game for a championship.”

Siena head coach Ali Jaques, who guided her short-handed team to the program’s first winning campaign in 11 years and first postseason berth in 12, said her team will be focused.

“It doesn’t matter where we play, or how we get there, by bus, train or airboat. We just want to bring all of our energy to our last game. We know Louisiana is very resilient after being down by 19 and still coming back to win.

“And I told our players that it makes sense that the final game we play this year will be against a team that presses as well as Louisiana does against our team without a true point guard. It’s very fitting, but all of our players handle the ball extremely well, especially our guards. It would be coach-speak to say we are just happy to be in the finals. We’re going there prepared to win this game.

“We’ve been a good road team, one of the best in the nation,” Jaques said. “Some of our players were happy, because they thought we were playing in New Orleans. I had to set them straight.”

Ida Krogh, like Coles a senior who will play her final game, win or lose, said a few weeks ago winning a tournament of any kind was not on the team’s radar.

“We were just playing in the MAAC tournament a few weeks ago, and I remember beating Iona. We felt we could do this. But then we lost to a very good Quinnipiac team in the finals. Coach Jaques said there was a very slight chance we could still get a postseason berth, but personally, I thought it was just a dream.

“This has been just an incredible experience for me,” said Krogh, from Arhus, Denmark. “To play for a championship like this with only seven players is really something. Maybe that’s all you need to win.”

Coles (13.2 ppg), freshman Margot Hetzke (13.1 ppg), Meghan Donohue (10.2 ppg), Krogh (7.7 ppg) and Kollyns Scarbrough (7.1 ppg) are the starters for the Saints, with Symone Kelly (5.8 ppg) and Albany High product Emia Willingham (5.1 ppg) in reserve. Kelly and Willingham combined for 26 points in the Mercer win.

Louisiana, 9-4 at home this year, is paced by Jaylyn Gordon (14.3 ppg), Keke Veal (12.9 ppg), Kia Wilridge (12.7 ppg), Robbie Brown (7.0 ppg) and Fields (6.2 ppg). Gordon is the team’s top three-point threat with 56.

Categories: College Sports

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