SPRINGFIELD, MASS. - In the 32-year history of the MAAC, no No. 6 seed has ever made the conference championship game. That streak will last for at least one more year as sixth seeded Siena saw their run end in the semifinals, 68-58 at the hands of No. 2 seed Iona at the MassMutual Center.
Winners of nine in a row, the red hot Gaels (20-11) advance to Monday's MAAC Championship game at noon against top seed Marist. Iona makes its third appearance in the conference title game in the past seven years.
Ali Jaques ends her first season as Siena's head coach, guiding the team to a 13-18 overall record. For a third straight year the Saints' season ends in the MAAC Semifinals.
In her final game as a Saint, senior captain Lily Grenci left it all on the floor. She posted her 11th double-double of the season and finished two points shy of her career-high in a 28-point, 12-rebound effort.
Grenci made 12-18 from the field, but the rest of the Saints struggled, shooting a combined 8-43 (18.6%).
Siena, which became just the sixth No. 6 seed in MAAC history to advance to the semifinals following Friday's upset of third seeded Fairfield, jumped out to a quick 7-2 lead.
But Iona's potent offense, which leads the league in scoring, responded with a 27-8 run to build a 14-point lead and never trailed again. MAAC Player of the Year Damika Martinez capped the run with a steal and coast-to-coast lay in for two of the Gaels' 17 fastbreak points.
Siena answered with a 9-0 run of its own, but the Gaels scored the final two baskets of the half to take a 33-24 lead at the break.
Iona quickly increased its lead to 16, 44-38 with 15:32 remaining. But Siena had one more run in them as back-to-back blocks led to a pair of transition threes from Clara Sole Anglada to cap an 8-0 run and make it 44-36 with 14:09 left.
That would be it though for the Saints as the Gaels provided the final knockout punch with an 11-3 run and led by as much as 21 in closing the minutes. Martinez, who tied a MAAC Tournament record with 36 points Friday, added 25 more shooting 9-15 from the field and contributed five steals.
MAAC Rookie of the Year Joy Adams posted another double-double with 11 points and 10 rebounds and Aleesha Powell added 10 points for a young and talented Iona squad whose top four scorers are underclassmen.
Siena received 10 points off the bench from Sole and eight points and five rebounds from Tehresa Coles. Only a sophomore, Coles concluded a solid campaign by finishing third in program single-season history with 90 steals.
Siena also made 15-21 from the foul line, finishing just six makes shy of the program's single season record of 496 during the 1986-87 campaign.
The Saints are expected to return all but Grenci next season, but Siena's lone senior leaves a huge void to be filled. After battling through two injury plagued seasons she led the team in scoring each of her final two years totaling an impressive 935 points.