Siena exorcised the ghosts of MAAC Tournaments past, but A.J. English and regular-season champion Iona proved too much to overcome. English scored 32 points - none bigger than his heavily contested three-pointer with 35 seconds to play that gave the Gaels to a 74-71 victory and a berth in tomorrow's semifinals.
Siena never led, but used a 14-4 run to pull within 69-67 on Ryan Oliver's three-pointer with 1:08 remaining. The partisan crowd rose to its feet during Iona's ensuing timeout, rocking the Times Union Center like they did from 2008-10 when the Saints won three Tournament championships here.
"I think that's the loudest since I've been here that the Times Union Center has been," senior Evan Hymes said.
David Laury held the ball 30-feet from the basket for the majority of Iona's decisive possession before handing to English who bailed out the Gaels with Marquis Wright in his face and the final seconds ticking off the shot clock.
The dagger was the last of six three-pointers Iona's junior star made. He made 9-14 field goals and carried the Gaels on his back all day.
"A.J. English had a great game today," Siena coach Jimmy Patsos said. "I hope you enjoy watching him, because he's going to be in the NBA next year."
Lavon Long led the Saints with 17 points and was the catalyst in a 9-0 run that started with his hammer dunk with 7:26 left that changed the complexion of the game. Long made 8-10 field goals in his most spirited game in weeks, giving big hope to the future of Siena's storied program.
"I think I just really energized the team down the stretch helping us think that we could win this," Long said.
Iona led by as many as 13 in the first half and took a 45-37 lead to the lockerroom after Evan Hymes beat the clock with a trademark drive. The lead never dipped below eight until Long's three-point play with 6:59 to play. Oliver sunk two free throws with 4:25 left to cut the deficit to three, but Iona scored four straight inside to take a 69-62 lead at the final media with 2:06 on the clock.
Siena wasn't done.
Long muscled home two inside and Oliver hit the biggest three of his career to set up the frantic final minute.
"Great game. Our kids didn't quit," Patsos said. "This game was kind of like our season. We stuck together and had a lot of close games. We played Iona tough this year. We battled them all three games."
Oliver continued his March success with 16 points off the bench on 6-11 shooting.
Rob Poole and Hymes finish their Siena careers as the fifth highest scoring teammates in program history with 2,831 combined points. Poole went out with 14 points in 33 minutes and Hymes added eight in 17 minutes.
Iona improved to 7-0 all-time against Siena in MAAC Tournament play and snapped the Saints' 13-game win streak at Times Union Center in postseason play.
The Saints finish a challenging season 11-20, but provided plenty of reason the last three days to think the ghosts of the past will come back to life many more times next season.