By: Colton Pankiewicz.
Canisius took a bruising in the first ten minutes play, finding themselves to a 24-8 deficit against their most familiar foe. Outside of the first quarter, the Griffs actually outscored their rivals 62-58, shooting 50% from behind the arc with sophomore Cheyenne Stubbs leading with three from deep herself.
Niagara’s senior guard Angel Parker had the Griffs number in this outing, leading the Purple Eagles with a team high five steals and 21 points. These numbers aren’t unfamiliar to Parker, who was second in the nation in steals, and a unanimous All-MAAC first team selection in 2021-2022. Her strong defense has a lot to do with Canisius’ 20 turnovers, 14 of them stemming from the first half.
Canisius responded coming out of the locker room with back to back three pointers from sophomore Athina Lexa. Senior Vannessa Garrelts cut their deficit to single digits. Niagara fought back and saw a 22 point lead, but a dominant 10 point fourth quarter by the Griffs leading scorer, junior Dani Haskell, exemplified the Griffs refusal to quit.
“We’ve challenged our team to avoid turning molehills into mountains. Most of our struggles are internal and are solved through maturity” coach Sahar Nusseibeh said. “In the locker room I heard a player that doesn't normally speak up tell the others that we need to be the team that punches first, and have to stop taking the first punch.”
Despite dropping the last five games and sitting third-last in the conference, the Griffs sit just three games back from the third seed, and five games back from the first seed in the MAAC with ten games left in the regular season. With all ten games left against conference opponents, the team controls their own destiny going into the MAAC tournament.
“I think our mentality is shifting, and to be honest I think it's the perfect time in the season for that shift, we can finish extremely strong and I know our staff and players believe it,” Nusseibeh added.
The Griffs now sit at 3-7 in conference play, and are back on the road this weekend with hopes to win their first away game since November against a Fairfield team that's 6-3 against MAAC opponents, but just 3-4 at home.