By: Isabel Smith ~Staff Writer~
Head coach Brian Neal’s winning second season with the Musketeers came to a close this past weekend as the Xavier women’s basketball team fell to Siena College in the Women’s Basketball Invitational (WBI) quarterfinals.
Xavier’s postseason run capped off a much-improved season for the Musketeers and Neal from a year ago.
The team moved toward the goal of rebuilding the program by producing nine more wins than a year ago, tying Xavier for 11th on a list of best win improvement in the nation.
XU entered the 16-team tournament on March 18 as a two-seed for the East Region, which featured teams as near to campus as Northern Kentucky University and as far as Troy University in Alabama.
Xavier played host to seven-seed William and Mary at Cintas Center for the first round opener.
In Xavier’s first postseason tournament matchup since the 2010-11 season, Xavier continued the fight to outlast the William and Mary Tribe in the final seconds of the game.
It was an exhilarating 17-5 run for the Musketeers, crowned by a layup by junior guard Jenna Crittendon that sealed the deal for XU. Crittendon provided the push to edge away from the Tribe with fewer than 15 seconds left in regulation to play.
A failed three-point attempt by opposing guard Marlena Tremba ended the Tribe’s season and William and Mary’s first Division 1 postseason tournament experience.
Earlier in the matchup, the Tribe outplayed Xavier to extend its lead to nine points with just over five minutes left to play.
The Musketeers rallied and came out victorious by shooting 8-for-10 and holding the opposition to a single field goal in the closing five minutes.
Sophomore guard Raeshaun Gaffney posted 16 points, seven of which came in those final five minutes.
Junior forward Briana Glover helped lead her team to success with a game-high 20 points while shooting 9-of-10 from the field.
The Xavier win sent the Muskies to the second round of the WBI in a match up against the Siena Saints on March 22 in Cintas Center.
Like the game against William and Mary, the WBI competition with Siena was the first meeting of the two teams in school history.
Siena proved to be tough compition in the Sunday afternoon matchup.
Following half-time, the Saints extended a five-point advantage to a 20-point lead with a shocking and powerful 15-point run and put the game nearly out of reach.
Xavier attempted to answer and was able to narrow the margin to 16 points, but the Musketeers struggled against Siena’s strong offensive efforts.
Xavier’s 28.6 field goal percentage was the team’s second lowest of the year.
No Xavier players hit double-digits in points, but Crittendon got close with nine points and both junior guard Aliyah Zantt and freshman guard Kindell Fincher posted seven points.
Overall, Xavier’s performance displayed great improvement that will carry the team into future seasons.
The women’s basketball team continues to make postive strides and looks to have an even more successful season next year.