Griffs squeak out OT win against arch-rival Niagara

By Robert Janish

Senior Sports Writer

Currently not where they like to be in the standings, a lot of work must be done in order for our women’s basketball team to get in a better position within the Metro Atlantic Athletic Conference. They have now gained some much needed momentum with a tough, gritty 68-66 victory against the Purple Eagles in overtime at the Gallagher Center Thursday night.

Not only is this game important because of the history between the two schools but the win could be important concerning this year’s Battle of the Bridge between the Griffs and the Purple Eagles. A win was also necessary in order to move up the conference standings and possibly earn a shot at a first-round bye while also being a top five team in the MAAC. Hopefully, this game can potentially be a first step in the right direction for them as a team.

Coach Terry Zeh said it’s important to have the confidence of being able to accomplish goals as a team. “We’re in really close games and we’re not coming away with the win, and sometimes you lose confidence. It’s really just maintaining the confidence in each other.” He hoped that by having the confidence as a team that it could perhaps lead to some wins instead of losses.

Senior Crystal Porter said that Coach Zeh is looking for consistency throughout practice because “in our games we haven’t been consistent and practice hasn’t been consistent either, and we look for energy also.”

“It’s definitely about keeping energy and keeping focus throughout the whole forty minutes of the game,” Junior Lauren D’Hont said. She also believed that it’s essential to continue to keep up the good stretches of play and try to limit those times when they are not playing their best.

While the Griffs currently sit with a record of 4-7, they do have a lot of work ahead to reach the coveted 5th spot. Porter believes they will make it happen, but it will just take some time to get there. D’Hont believes their upcoming opponents in the MAAC may help them because “most of the games that we play in the MAAC have been against the same teams, so now we’re going through a stretch where we’re playing brand new teams which is I think going to be good for us because we’re going to see something new and we’ll hopefully capitalize on that.”

Zeh also said it’s very important to take each game one at a time, and not look too far ahead when it comes to the playoffs, but “if you can put a bunch of wins in a row, I think you can start to entertain the conversation about a first round bye, but right now, we need to just concentrate on what are the little things we need to do to get us pushed over the edge and how to turn those close games into wins.”

D’Hont added that Niagara is playing well right now, especially with a brand new coaching staff this season. She also said Zeh is “doing a really good job of relaying that message to us, and definitely in practice where we’re doing a lot of Niagara scout stuff” and believes it will come in handy against their defense. Porter believes Zeh is doing his best to mentally prepare his team for this critical matchup, especially when it comes to the fierce rivalry between the two schools.

Zeh greatly stressed the importance of the Canisius-Niagara rivalry and how from the seniors down to the freshmen experiencing it for the first time understand the importance and what’s at stake in this game.”Our thing basketball wise is prepare for what Niagara does, we need to prepare for their zone [defense] and just us mentally, being confident going into a basketball game.”

Porter believes that “we need to get our mojo back!” She also said that “if we get this win against Niagara would give us a boost of confidence,” and in order to do that, the key is to “play the best I can do and just be focused.” D’Hont believes it’s important to “keep in physical shape and stay mentally prepared the whole game.”

“They’re all important for us now!” Zeh added, referring to the remaining MAAC schedule and how critical a game is regardless of who the opponent is. “We lost a bunch of close ones here and put ourselves where we are, every game has way more importance and we can’t afford to slip.” He explains that each game is important for the team and there is also an added pressure to win.

“I think it’s definitely important to win this game especially since we’ve had a few close games recently that we didn’t come out with the win,” D’Hont said. She also thinks that a win would be really important because they meet again very soon “so it’s going to be real important to make sure that this first one puts a statement out there.”

However, while it’s very important to win against their arch rival, Zeh also wants the team to play the game the way in which they do. “If we go to Niagara and we play the way we want to play and we do the things we want to do and we compete really hard, and they make a bunch of shots and we don’t win the game, well at least we did what we wanted to do and that’s the most important thing, and hopefully, if we do what we want to do, then we could come out with a win.”
The Griffs return home Monday to face the Iona Gaels and look to continue to grow with the momentum they now have after getting a tough win against Niagara.

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