Iona WBB Clinches First Round Bye With Victory Over Monmouth
WEST LONG BRANCH, NJ – The Iona College women's basketball team completed a sweep of Monmouth with a 65-51 victory, clinching the No. 6 seed and a first-round bye in the upcoming 2021 MAAC Championship.
Iona picked up where they left off the night prior, converting on five of its first eight field goal attempts and jumping out to an early 9-2 lead. Monmouth scored just once in the opening three-plus minutes of action before back-to-back buckets from Jen Louro and Gabrielle Wener made it a 9-7 ballgame. Iona scored eight of the next 11 points, including an Olivia Vezaldenos buzzer-beating three-pointer, to close out the first quarter with an 18-9 advantage over the Hawks.
Hannah King began the second quarter with two straight baskets, surpassing her previous career high in points, and allowing the Gaels to maintain its doubled-up lead of the Hawks. After King's third basket of the evening gave the Maroon & Gold a 22-10 cushion, Iona would go on to miss its next four shots and commit four turnovers. Monmouth used that dry spell from the visitors to cut a sizable chunk out of the deficit they faced. 11 unanswered points from the Hawks turned Iona's 12-point lead into a one-point lead.
Ketsia Athias scored inside to end Iona's six-plus minute scoring drought. Camilion followed that up with a pair of free throws to make it a two-possession game again with 97 seconds remaining in the first half. Wener made the final field goal of the half in the closing seconds, making it a 26-23 game in favor of Iona heading into the locker room.
Monmouth grabbed its first lead of the night in the opening minute of second-half action following consecutive makes by Sakeria Haralson and Louro. Camilion knotted things at 28 all with a reverse layup, but Ariana Vanderhoop put one in the hoop herself, once again giving the Hawks the advantage on the scoreboard.
A pair of free throws from Thoranna Hodge-Carr tied the score again, 30-30, but it tilted in Monmouth's favor for the third time in the first four minutes of the second half after Belle Kranbuhl split a couple of free throws. 12 seconds after the Hawks went in front, Camilion nailed a three to take away Monmouth's lead. Hodge-Carr buried the first three of her collegiate career to add to that advantage and force a timeout from head coach Jody Craig. Monmouth would never regain a lead.
The Hawks got to within one point of the lead three times in the final five minutes of the third quarter, tying the game once, but Iona always had an answer. Vezaldenos closed out the frame with an offensive rebound and a putback layup at the buzzer to give the Gaels some extra breathing room, 46-43, going into the final quarter. The senior tracked down the missed shot and threw up a contested shot underneath the basket that found twine.
The turning point of the evening was the beginning of the fourth period. Iona scored 10 of the first 13 points, including two clutch trifectas from Vezaldenos, to build a double-digit lead. It was the largest lead for the Maroon & Gold since the eight-minute mark of quarter number two. The Gaels scored five of their final nine points from the free throw line, but the final basket would come via junior Jessica Rogers. Iona left the OceanFirst Bank Center with a 65-51 victory over the Hawks and a sweep of the season series as they prepare for postseason play.