LOUDONVILLE — In Jim Jabir’s return to the bench after resuming his duties as head coach of the Siena women’s basketball team, the Saints fell just short against first-place Iona 68-66 at the UHY Center on Saturday afternoon.
Jabir had stepped away from the program just over three weeks ago while the school investigated allegations that he’d made racially insensitive and misogynistic comments to his players.
He was reinstated on Friday upon conclusion of an investigation by Siena’s Title IX/Equal Opportunity Office.
The Saints had won six of seven games while coached by assistant Terry Primm, and nearly pulled off a big win upon Jabir’s return, in a game that could’ve moved the Saints into a tie for first place in the MAAC.
Instead, the Gaels (8-1 MAAC, 13-5 overall) took a 68-64 lead on two free throws by Kate Mager with 8.9 seconds left, and the Saints ran out of time trying to make up the difference.
Siena’s Anajah Brown rebounded a 3-point miss by Teresa Seppala and put it back in just before the final buzzer to produce the final score, as Siena fell to 6-3 in the MAAC and 12-7 overall.
Seppala finished with 17 points while hitting 3 of 5 3-pointers, Ahniysha Jackson scored 11 and Anajah Brown had 10 points and 10 rebounds.
Juana Camilion and Mager did most of the damage for Iona on offense, with 21 and 20 points, respectively.
The game was close all the way despite a 17-5 run by Iona at the start, during which the Gaels made eight of 11 field goal attempts.
Siena chipped away at the lead and went into the second quarter with an 18-17 lead after Ahniysha Jackson hit a 3 to tie it and Emina Selimovic made one of two free throws with 1.8 seconds left in the first.
Siena led 36-30 at halftime, and after Mager hit a 3 to put Iona up 46-45 with 3:05 left in the third quarter, there were five more lead changes before the Saints took a 54-53 lead into the fourth.
The Saints’ last lead came with 4:58 left in the game, when Brown hit a jumper to put Siena up 61-59.
Mager made a 3, and Camilion’s jumper put Iona up 64-61 with 2:38 left.
Elisa Mevius tied it at 64-64 with a 3-pointer with 2:08 left, but the Saints failed to take advantage of an Iona turnover, as Jackson missed a 3, leading to a jumper by Camilion with 31 seconds left. After a Siena turnover with 11 seconds left, Mager hit two free throws to make it 68-64.