SPRINGFIELD, MASS. - For the second straight year Siena Women's Basketball will advance to the MAAC Semifinals as the No. 6 seed. Kanika Cummings hit a pair of clutch shots late and Siena's defense smothered Fairfield's final attempts as the Saints held on and beat the third-seeded Stags 52-48 in quarterfinal action at the MassMutual Center.
Siena (13-17), which advances to the conference semifinals for a third straight year, will take on No. 2 seed Iona Saturday at 9:30 a.m. The teams split the season series with each squad winning by decisive margins on their own home courts.
Senior captain Lily Grenci set the tone early for the Saints, while Cummings served as the closer. Grenci scored 15 of her 17 points in the first half as Siena raced out to an early 24-13 lead. Fairfield (17-13) remained close throughout, but never tied or led over the final 35 minutes of the game.
Meeting for the eighth time in the last nine MAAC Tournaments, Siena took a 31-27 lead over the Stags at the half and their margin seesawed between two and seven points for most of the second half. Alexys Vazquez cut Siena's lead to 46-43 with 4:46 remaining on one of her five threes, but then it was Cummings' time.
The junior answered by hitting a tough pull-up in the lane and then sunk a huge baseline three to extend the lead to eight, 51-43 with three minutes remaining and put the Saints in the driver's seat. Cummings finished with 12 points off the bench.
Siena, which entered the game 26th nationally in free throw shooting, missed four of five in the final 1:17 to make things interesting. But the Saints made several key stands defensively and secured a pair of clutch offensive rebounds off free throw misses in the waning seconds to hold on.
Grenci added nine rebounds and hit a trio of threes, while Tehresa Coles contributed eight points as Siena became just the sixth No. 6 seed in MAAC history to advance to the women's semifinals. Siena, which also advanced to the semifinals as the No. 6 seed last year and in 1990, joins Loyola (2000), Saint Peter's (1994) and Fairfield (1989) as the only six seeds to make the tournament's penultimate game.
Vazquez led Fairfield with 15 points on her five triples, while Brittany Obi-Tabot and Katie Cizynski added 14 apiece for the Stags which scuffled down the stretch and have lost four of their last five.
Now Siena will look to become the first-ever No. 6 seed in MAAC history to advance to the conference title game. Saturday's matchup with Iona will be televised on ESPN3 and pregame coverage begins at 9 a.m. locally on WVCR 88.3 FM and can be listened to free online at SienaAllAccess.com.