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  • Peter Neville

Women's basketball portrays bright future despite season ending loss to #25 Fairfield

By Peter Neville, Sports Reporter

On March 15, the women's basketball team's mad dash toward the MAAC championship came to an end, with the team falling 77–64 to the nationally ranked Fairfield team.

As the final buzzer sounded on the team's season, there was plenty to be proud of. For the first time since the 2008-09 season, the Griffs finished with a winning record and made it to the final four of the MAAC tournament. 

“She is the best leader, the best coach and most empowering woman I could have ever asked for,” said graduate guard Grace Heeps regarding head coach Sahar Nusseibeh. “College basketball is hard, and she makes it easy, she makes it fun, she makes it great every day to come to practice with love, energy, intentions, passion. I couldn't have asked to be playing for any other coach in America.”

On an individual level, sophomore Sisi Eleko and junior Athina Lexa took home some hardware, both being recognized by the conference for their individual seasons. Eleko was unanimously named as a first team All-MAAC selection. She led the conference in both scoring — with 15.9 points per game — and rebounding — with 10.6 per game —, averaging a double-double for the season. She accumulated 17 of them overall and is ranked 17th in the nation. As for Lexa, she was named the conference's sixth player of the year, averaging 11.7 points per game and 3.3 rebounds per game for the Griffs' bench unit. 

Much like the rest of college sports, Canisius and the MAAC have been no strangers to the influx of transfer portal additions. With five major portal additions this season — Bri Rozzi, Tihanna Fulton, Grace Heeps, Jane McCauley and Mackenzie Amalia — Canisius utilized the portal to bring much-needed experience to an otherwise young roster. 

“We had the right makeup this year: I think people are everything. I think the meshing of people, the human alchemy is really really important. We just had the right group of women this year,” said coach Nusseibeh. “Now what it is is the veterans who transferred in, that group of five, they taught our younger ones, our babies as Grace [Heeps] said. They taught them so much in terms of how to run their program.” 

The  “babies,” as both Heeps and Nusseibeh labeled them, will have big shoes to fill next season. Freshman Mary Copple, who saw limited playing time early in this season, will likely see a larger share of minutes next season pending the departure of Grace Heeps. Furthermore, more youth will be added to the program, as the early signing period for basketball opened last Wednesday and runs through November.

Overall Record: 17-14 Conf: 11-9 Home: 8-5 Away: 8-8 Neutral: 1-1

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