This breaks off from the travel theme of my blog, but I felt strongly about this blog post and would love for you to read and share this on social media!
Basketball games have always served as a stress reliever for me during the school year at Siena, and last night I attended my last one. Heartbreaking. Gut Wrenching. Disbelief. These are just a few ways to describe how students and fans felt last night upon the final buzzer sounding. Our Saints left their hearts on the court last night and gave every ounce of energy they had left to win that game. We came up a little short, and I’m not going to lie, I still feel the disappointment at this very moment. For four years we have watched this team grow, just as we have grown as students and people. Last night at the Times Union Center everyone came together and displayed how far we’ve come as fans and especially how far we have come as a basketball program. We used to wilt under pressure and let the best teams walk all over us in big games. Players such as Billy Baron, AJ English, and as recently as Justin Robinson have come on to our court and made it theirs. There was no sign of that over the last few weeks, as our seniors displayed tremendous pride and mental toughness to overcome odds. Half of our student body came out to support the team last night and it created a special feeling in the arena. In a time where people are divided over many issues, there was an aura of unity felt in that arena between us as students that I will never forget. Four years ago as a fan base we were content with a CBI Championship and now as seniors we cannot be more disappointed that our Saints fell just short of a bid to the dance. I couldn’t be more proud to be a member of this community and I look forward to seeing more great strides taken in the future by this program.
Now, on to the game itself. We began the game on fire jumping out to a 23-15 lead and it felt as if we were going to roll in to the NCAA Tournament. Iona responded to the deficit and hostile environment with a barrage of 3s and drives to the rim which propelled them into the lead midway through the first half. This response by them was a message to us that this was going to be a battle throughout. Lunges and dives for loose balls were a common theme last night, along with ferocious rebounds by the Saints. We rebounded with a passion that I have not seen from them before and more times than not the winner of the rebounding battle typically wins the game. This is the benchmark for effort and intensity and we certainly were dialed in last night in that category. The two teams went back and forth to end the half and the Saints went into the locker room with a two point lead. Halftime gave us time to catch our breath and prepare for what was bound to be a classic second half. Reality met our expectations and exceeded them, delivering a heart stopping and an unfortunate heart breaking ending. It was much of the same throughout the half, as no one held more than a five point advantage and those leads were typically short lived. We fought and fought throughout the whole game and if we could have gotten one stop in the latter minutes of the game we would all be gathered yet again on selection Sunday to await our fate. It wasn’t meant to be. Iona was flawless at the free throw line and executed their offensive sets to perfection. Fortunately, our leader Marquis Wright consistently had answers and was seemingly always tying the game back up. When it came down to needing two more points at the end of regulation, it was up to Brett Bisping at the foul line. This was our one weak point last night, shooting just 63% for the game. That number was meaningless with 13 seconds left because Brett calmly knocked down both to tie the game. Iona misfired at the buzzer and this barn burner headed to overtime.
Overtime was full of points on both sides as neither side got a stop until the waning seconds. Iona fed Jordan Washington relentlessly down low and got points at will. We always had an answer until Nico Clareth fired wide on a chance to take the lead. Should Marquis Wright have driven to the hoop and tried to draw a foul? Maybe. Would it have been wise to work through our post guys? Also a good option. But after the game Nico Clareth put together just the night before, he was our best option to try and win the game. The last few seconds ticked off and that was the game and the end to many great careers. Those seniors may not recognize the impact they had on this program now, but they will over time. What they did was bring back what is a proud program to national prominence and restore the excitement in the Capital Region about the Saints. I remember watching them play for the first time as a Freshman and I couldn’t have been more proud of the growth exhibited by them over the years. As myself and my classmates exit Loudonville in a couple months, I hope we maintain that pride and spirit and carry it over into whatever walk of life we choose to pursue. It was an honor watching the Saints play in my time here and I thank you for all of the memories you have given me as a student.