Late bucket dooms Siena women’s basketball in MAAC quarterfinal loss to Niagara

Siena coach Jim Jabir walks in front of the bench during the Siena Saints women's basketball home opener against Duquesne Saturday, November 27, 2021 at the UHY Center in Loudonville.
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Siena coach Jim Jabir walks in front of the bench during the Siena Saints women's basketball home opener against Duquesne Saturday, November 27, 2021 at the UHY Center in Loudonville.

The Siena women’s basketball team showed the same kind of fight Thursday afternoon in the quarterfinals of the MAAC tournament as they did in bouncing back from their season-opening 10-game losing streak, but a moment of magic from Niagara’s Ally Haar spoiled the Saints’ bid for a trip to the semifinals.

Despite losing both starting point guard Deanna Winston and backup Imani Harris to injury, fifth-seeded Siena rallied to take the lead in the fourth quarter Thursday afternoon at Jim Whelan Boardwalk Hall in Atlantic City, New Jersey, only for Haar’s floater from the foul line with 7.7 seconds left to put No. 4 Niagara back in front.

A desperation 3-pointer from Margo Peterson was off the mark as time expired, ending Siena’s season with a 60-59 loss.

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“This was a horror show,” Siena (10-19) head coach Jim Jabir said. “We lose one point guard, then we lose our next point guard. We’re not going to have any point guards left. Then we had [Rayshel Brown] bringing the ball down the floor, and she goes out with a concussion, hits her head. We never stopped fighting.

“I couldn’t be prouder of the effort they gave. That’s how Siena’s going to play from here on out, and that’s how we’re going to be known in this league — as the hardest-working team in the league.”

Niagara (15-14) led by as many as eight in the third quarter and was up 52-46 in the fourth before Siena responded with a 9-2 run, taking the lead on a pair of Peterson free throws with 4:01 to play.

Siena twice got its lead out to three points but, up 59-58 after forcing a shot clock violation on Niagara with 39 seconds left, the Saints turned the ball over out of a timeout on an errant pass from Philoxy.

“I think I overcoached that last sideline out-of-bounds play,” Jabir said.

That handed the ball back to Niagara, setting the stage for Haar’s heroics.

Philoxy finished with 19 points, Rayshel Brown scored 15 and Valencia Fontenelle-Posson scored 12 for Siena. Angel Parker scored 16 points despite playing just 22 minutes before fouling out to lead Niagara, which will face No. 1 seed Fairfield in the semifinals on Friday at 11 a.m.

“It’s a tough loss,” Philoxy said. “We fought to the end, but those little mistakes add up, and that’s what happened.”

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