By Kevin Sweeney
It wasn’t easy, but Siena held off a late Manhattan charge in the final minutes to earn an 89-76 win Saturday night in a MAAC Tournament quarter-final matchup on Saturday night at the Times Union Center in Albany NY. Brett Bisping led the way for the Saints with 22 points and 16 rebounds.
The Saints raced out to a quick 13-4 lead in the opening minutes, clearly feeding off of the energy from a loud, pro-Siena crowd. However, Manhattan quickly settled in, even taking the lead mid-way through the first half. After that, the Saints regained the momentum and ran out to a double digit lead. Lavon Long, who came off the bench after starting for the majority of the regular season, provided a huge boost for the Saints. Another reason why the Saints were able to make the push was foul trouble for the Jaspers. While both teams faced foul trouble, Manhattan’s 2 leading scorers, Rich Williams and Shane Richards, were grounded 2 and 3 fouls m, respectively. This late first half boost led Siena into halftime with a 46-34 lead.
In the second half, it was Siena who made the first real push. They extended their lead to 16 points at 66-50 with only around 12 minutes to play. Manhattan wasn’t done, however, making a huge 20-7 run culminating in a technical foul on Jimmy Patsos. The Siena lead was cut to just 3. The technical seemed to energize the Saints, as they scored the next 5 points, including a dagger banked-in 3 by center Javion Ogunyemi that gave the Saints and 8 point lead with under 3 minutes to go. Siena knocked down their foul shots, and a few technical fouls on Manhattan in the final minute put the game away in the closing moments.
The aforementioned foul trouble was a problem for both teams. Many of the best players for both sides were forced to sit with excess fouls, challenging each team’s depth.
For Manhattan, it was Rich Williams who led the way. Williams had 26 points, and for much of the night was the only offense the Jaspers had. Williams had a huge quickness advantage over forwards Bisping and Ogunyemi, which he exploited all night. However, Shane Richards was kept in check, thanks mostly to the defense of freshman Nico Clareth. Richards scored most of his points late in the game.
Siena moves on to a HUGE semi-final tomorrow night against Iona. The teams split the regular season meetings. Manhattan concludes their season with a 13-18 record.