Greyhounds re-run to semis

Loyola upsets Niagara, advances to 8th straight tourney final four, 77-74

Metro Atlantic women

March 04, 2000|By Tim Reynolds | Tim Reynolds,SPECIAL TO THE SUN

ALBANY, N.Y. -- The team with the best defense in the Metro Atlantic Athletic Conference played the team with the best offense yesterday. Fortunately for the Loyola women's basketball team, defense prevailed.

Senior forward Jennifer Bongard scored a season-high 23 points, and junior Erica Rath added 17 yesterday afternoon, as sixth-seeded Loyola moved into the women's semifinals of the MAAC tournament for the eighth consecutive year by upsetting third-seeded Niagara, 77-74, at Pepsi Arena.

"People talk about being on offensively," Loyola coach Cindy Anderson said. "We were on defensively, and we had to be."

Loyola (12-16) advanced to play second-seeded St. Peter's in the semifinals at 9: 45 a.m. today. The defending tournament champion, St. Peter's (21-7) eliminated Manhattan, 70-52, and swept two games from the Greyhounds dur- ing the regular season by a combined nine points.

Niagara (14-14) started off well, holding the Greyhounds without a field goal for the first 4: 23 of the contest, and led by as many as nine points midway through the opening half.

But Loyola rallied to take a 36-35 lead at intermission and kept momentum on its side into the second half, opening a 61-49 lead on a three-pointer by Bongard with 9: 46 remaining.

"With the way our whole season has gone, we couldn't relax," Bongard said. "We had to keep going and keep attacking. With our team being so young, we couldn't let up at all."

Bongard hit two free throws with 3: 11 remaining, giving Loyola a 72-62 advantage. Niagara, though, came storming back, outscoring the Greyhounds 12-3 over the next three minutes and pulling within 75-74 on a three-pointer by Douglasse Sieber with 4.2 seconds left. Loyola's Shannon Cohen hit two free throws with 3.8 seconds left for the final margin.

"There's nothing that comes easily in this world, is there?" Anderson said.

At Pepsi Arena, actually, it seems like wins do come easily for Loyola. The Greyhounds are 12-4 all time in Albany, including an upset over then top-seeded Siena two years ago.

"I wasn't going out in the first round," Bongard said.

Amy Getman and Sheryl Klick led Niagara with 14 points apiece. The Purple Eagles came into the game ranked second nationally in free-throw percentage (.770), but missed nine of 27 shots from the line.

"Loyola played very, very well," Niagara coach Bill Agronin said. "They're probably one of the more improved teams in this league, and they hit shots when they needed to."

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