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Saints' improbable march ends a step short

Saints' improbable march ends a step short

Saints' improbable march ends a step short
Marquis Wright of Siena is consoled after Monday's loss to Iona.
Photographer: Peter R. Barber/Gazette Photographer

ALBANY — Senior Marquis Wright’s final 3-pointer, a deep one taken with nobody around him, was true. It swished into the net — and then he dropped to the ground in agony.

He’d been wide open for a reason.

A day after upsetting top-seeded Monmouth in a classic, the Siena College men’s basketball team could not pull off another thrill-a-minute win, dropping the MAAC tournament championship game against a familiar stumbling block. 

Iona topped Siena 87-86 in overtime to defend its championship at Times Union Center, where the Gaels have now beaten the Saints eight consecutive times. Iona has ended Siena’s MAAC postseason run each of the last three seasons.

“Right now, it hurts,” Siena redshirt senior Brett Bisping said. “But I’m really proud. We fought. We didn’t quit. I mean, I can honestly say I think everyone gave it everything they had tonight. You can live with that.”

Wright’s final shot of the night dropped in to give him a game-high 29 points, but it came a possession after sophomore teammate Nico Clareth — who starred in Sunday’s semifinal with 27 second-half points — missed a go-ahead 3 with seconds to go in the game. 

“That guy got us here,” Siena coach Jimmy Patsos said of Clareth, who had badly sprained his right ankle this past Wednesday in a practice. 

Clareth didn’t play in Saturday’s quarterfinal, starred Sunday and couldn’t get his shot going Monday. He scored four points against Iona, making 1 of 9 shots. 

An electric crowd carried Siena (No. 4, 17-17) early in the contest, as the Saints built up a 23-15 lead midway through the half. Iona (No. 3, 22-12) answered with a 17-1 run to forge ahead, but Siena responded with an 11-0 run to retake the lead. Freshman Ahsante Shivers capped Siena’s run with a putback tip jam for a 35-32 lead, and the Saints eventually went into halftime up 37-35.

Iona senior Jordan Washington — a first-team All-MAAC selection — scored 10 points and grabbed seven rebounds in the first half, but foul trouble limited him to only 10 minutes before intermission. Wright led Siena with 10 points in the first half, while senior Lavon Long had seven of his 11 rebounds in a 20-minute stretch in which the Saints outrebounded Iona 29-16.

Washington finished with 21 points and 10 rebounds for Iona, including several tough shots that Siena couldn’t find an answer for on defense.

“He made a couple really tough shots,” Patsos said.

Bisping finished with 16 points and a game-high 14 rebounds, while senior Javion Ogunyemi had 16 points and 10 rebounds. Long added nine points and 11 rebounds. For the game, Siena outdid Iona on the boards 52-34, but the Saints only made 19 of 30 free throws.

Iona pushed to a 57-48 lead midway through the second half. Siena answered, though, with another 11-0 run that Wright finished with a 3 with 8:28 to go. From there, the teams stayed within five points of one another for the rest of the night.

Siena was down 73-71 in the final minute of regulation. 

After Wright missed a jumper, Bisping was fouled going for the rebound with 13.7 seconds to go. Bisping made both free throws to tie it up, and Rickey McGill missed a 3 at the buzzer as the game went into overtime at 73-73.
In overtime, ties came at 75, 77, 79, 81 and 83. After all that, though, Iona scored the next four points to seal its win.

“That’s MAAC basketball,” Patsos said of the night’s action, which took place in front of a heavily pro-Siena crowd that was energized throughout the night.

Exactly two months prior to Monday’s game, Siena was 4-11 and had lost six of its last seven games. A four-game winning streak started the next day and the Saints never looked back, closing their regular season with 11 wins in their final 16 games.

Patsos said he thought it was “doubtful” his team would play in a postseason tournament. As he left the podium from his press conference, he continued talking.

“That’s all, folks,” he said. “That’s a wrap.”

Ogunyemi 6-12 4-10 16, Long 4-9 1-2 9, Bisping 4-10 5-6 16, Wright 9-22 6-7 29, Shivers 4-7 0-1 8,
Richard 0-0 0-0 0, Smithen 1-2 2-2 4, Clareth 1-9 1-2 4, Fisher 0-1 0-0 0, Friday 0-0 0-0 0. Totals: 29-72 19-30 86.
Crawford 5-8 0-0 12, Washington 7-16 7-8 21, McGill 4-9 3-4 14, Casimir 2-4 4-4 10, Much 7-12 2-2 18, Cassell 1-4 0-0 2, Severe 2-7 1-1 5, Svandrik 0-0 0-0 0, Bessick 2-3 1-2 5. Totals: 30-63 18-21 86.
Halftime score: Siena 37, Iona 35.
Three-point shooting: Siena 9-27 (Bisping 3-5, Wright 5-11, Shivers 0-2, Smithen 0-1, Clareth 1-8); Iona 9-23 (Crawford 2-4, McGill 3-6, Casimir 2-3, Much 2-3, Cassell 0-3, Severe 0-3).
Rebounds: Siena 52 (Bisping 14); Iona 34 (Washington 10). Assists: Siena 12 (Wright 4); Iona 11 (Much 4). Turnovers: Siena 12, Iona 10. Total fouls: Siena 18, Iona 22. Fouled out: Bisping. Attendance: 7,608.

Reach Gazette Sportswriter Michael Kelly at 395-3109, [email protected], or @ByMichaelKelly on Twitter. For more coverage of Siena basketball, head to https://dailygazette.com/blogs/the-outlet.

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