ATLANTIC CITY, N.J. (NEWS10) – Siena Women’s Basketball entered the 2022-23 season as the youngest team in the nation and was selected to tie for ninth in the MAAC Preseason Coaches’ Poll. The Saints (19-13) overcame the odds one more time on Friday morning, taking the MAAC regular season champions to the brink in the 2023 MAAC Women’s Basketball Semifinals. Ultimately, No. 1 Iona held on over No. 4 Siena, 67-66, to advance to the 2023 MAAC Championship Game.

Taking the court at Jim Whelan Boardwalk Hall for its second game in just under 18 hours after dethroning Defending MAAC Champion Fairfield in the Quarterfinals on Thursday, Siena brought immediate energy and execution to open the game. Six straight and eight total first quarter points from sophomore Anajah Brown set the table for junior Ahniysha Jackson to hit a three-pointer at the end of the period that gave the Green and Gold an early ten-point lead, 23-13.

Siena converted six three-point shots while allowing only two in the first half and shot nearly 59 percent from the field to hold a seven-point halftime advantage. The Saints also carried an overwhelming 29-10 rebound advantage into the locker room.

After Iona cut its deficit to five to open the second half, the Saints further pushed the lead out, embarking on a 13-2 run to hold a 15-point advantage at 52-37 with 5:24 left in the third quarter. The team’s largest lead of the day would come at the 3:25 mark at 16 points, but nine late third quarter points from Iona senior Natalia Otkhmezuri kept the Gaels alive heading down the final stretch.

Siena owned a ten-point lead following an Iona bucket reversal to start the fourth quarter, but Otkhmezuri and the Gaels were not yet finished. The senior fired off two straight threes – with senior Kate Mager adding a third – to kick off the fourth quarter. The Gaels secured a 61-59 lead with 3:34 remaining in the fourth off another Otkhmezuri three, with the Saints unable to comeback from a 20-9 hole in the final quarter of play.

The Saints received points from everyone on the scoresheet for the 18th time this season, with Brown ending the year with her eighth double-double in the form of a career-high 20 points and 12 rebounds. Jackson added 18 points with four three pointers, while freshman Teresa Seppala turned in a collegiate-best 13 boards and MAAC Rookie of the Year Elisa Mevius added eight points and five assists.

Despite the second half slump, Siena held a 45-27 rebound advantage – including 18-2 on the offensive boards – and netted all 16 of the game’s second chance points. Otkhmezuri finished with 20 points for the Gaels, while senior Ketsia Athias added 14 and MAAC Player and Defensive Player of the Year Juana Camilion turned in 11, despite making just one important fourth quarter bucket in the second half.

Siena’s 19 stand as the program’s most in eight seasons, with 18 in the regular season matching the most in 20 years. Following the program’s first MAAC Semifinals appearance in five years and its closest shot at a title game appearance since 2003, the future looks bright for the Saints, with only one player graduating and over 99 percent of the team’s offense set to return this fall.