Saints March Past Mercer to Advance To WBI Final



The Siena women continued to amaze Wednesday night as they pushed their sensational season to live on for one more game by defeating Mercer, 65-54 to advance to the championship game of the Women’s Basketball Invitational. As resilient and cohesive of a unit as you will ever see, this group of seven active players, with the support of their team mates on the bench, pulled off their 22nd win of season.

This one was far from easy, as Mercer led for the entire first half and by as many as nine points with 3:39 to go before the break. Leading scorer and Southern Conference Player of the Year Precious Bridges (20.6 ppg.) led the Bears with 13 first-half points. The Saints shot just 10-33 (30.3%) from the field and 0-5 from three-point range, but their defense allowed them to stay within range and narrow the gap to 27-24 heading into the locker room.

Mercer continued to lead and twice built the margin up to seven points in the early going of the final twenty minutes. But the Saints were not done yet as they made a push and when senior Tehresa Coles sank a huge three-pointer with 13:39 to go, the crowd of 1,183 exploded as the score was tied for the first time, 37-37.

After a couple of empty possessions for each side, Emia Willingham stole the ball and raced ahead to feed Kollyns Scarbrough who gave the Saints their first lead of the game, 39-37 with 11:45 remaining. As they turned up the heat defensively, things began to really click on offense and Siena would never trail again as they marched on to their first postseason tournament final in program history.

Mercer’s 6-5 center Teannna Robinson, who had made things difficult inside for Siena, went to the bench early in the second half after picking up her third and fourth fouls. The Saints took advantage as they pounded the ball down low for easy buckets and got to the free throw line, two of their keys to success all season. They shot 10-21 (47.6%) from the field and converted 20-26 free throw attempts in the second half as a result, which proved to be the difference.

“We set on-the-ball screens for Ida to try to get her one-on-one and attacking #45 (Robinson),” explained Siena coach Ali Jaques. “We wanted her out of the game. She’s a big presence inside. She’s a shot blocker and you have to worry about her.  I think our post players went really hard at her and Ida did as well. That was a calculated move.”

Siena (22-12) was led by its only two bench players, junior Symone Kelly who finished with 14 points and sophomore Willingham who had 12 points with 9 rebounds, which tied her career-high. Tehresa Coles had 9 points and Meghan Donohue also had 9 points along with 5 rebounds. Ida Krogh finished with 8 points and 7 rebounds, Margot Hetzke had 7 points with 6 boards and Scarbrough finished with 6 points.

Coles and Willingham were a force defensively, grabbing 4 steals a piece. Siena scored 20 points off of 18 Mercer turnovers who came into the game ranked third in the country for fewest turnovers (11.0). The Saints again controlled the inside outscoring the Bears 38-14 in the paint and outrebounding them 39-34.

Mercer (20-15) was led in scoring by Bridges who led all scorers with 19 points. She was just 1-5 from the field in the second half thanks to Siena’s defensive pressure. Alicia Williams added 15 points for the Bears, while SoCon Rookie of the Year Kahlia Lawrence was held to only 4 four points, shooting just 2-10.

“I think the thing that really separated us was just our defensive intensity and our focus,” Jaques said. “To be able to shut down Bridges like that in the second half took a lot of effort and Tehresa and Emia really locked in defensively.”

In the West Region, top-seeded Louisiana Lafayette faces No. 5 seed Oral Roberts in the other semifinal Thursday night. If Louisiana wins, Siena would head to the Lafayette for a 5 p.m. ET (4 p.m. CT) tip on Sunday. If Oral Roberts wins, Siena  would host the tournament championship game at the ARC on Sunday at 2 p.m.

Siena will be playing in its 35th game of the season on Sunday, a program record. Their 13-win improvement from last year is tied with UT-Arlington for second best in the country. Still competing at the end of March, for a team picked to finish 10th in the MAAC, coming off a 9-win season and playing with just 7 players, seemed almost unimaginable. But this surprising bunch will lace them up for one last time hoping to put the icing on the cake.

“We’ll play on a street corner if we have to at this point. It doesn’t matter, said Jaques. “We have one game left together and we’re gonna do everything we can to bring back that trophy or maybe keep it here.”

For more postgame quotes, Click Here: Postgame Quotes Following Siena Women’s WBI Semifinal Win Over Mercer

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