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Niagara's victory clinches fifth place

On the final day of the regular season, Niagara's women's basketball team got what it needed -- a win.

The Purple Eagles defeated Manhattan, 56-44, in the Gallagher Center on Sunday afternoon, securing the No. 5 seed in this week's Metro Atlantic Athletic Conference Tournament.

Niagara closed out the season with a 9-9 mark in the MAAC, tied with Siena, which defeated Canisius in the Koessler Center, and Loyola. The Purple Eagles held the tiebreaker over the Saints and will face No. 4 Loyola in the quarterfinals at 3:30 p.m. Friday in the MassMutual Center in Springfield, Mass.

Niagara (12-18) got 12 points and five rebounds each from Meghan McGuinness and Lauren Gatto. McGuinness scored all her points from three-point range, going 4 of 7 from behind the arc.

Niagara shot well, hitting 44 percent (20 of 45) from the field and 58 percent (7 of 12) from three-point range.

Manhattan (16-14, 10-8 MAAC) had taken a 37-35 lead on a three-pointer by Monica Roeder with 10:55 left in the game. After back and forth play, McGuinness connected on a three to restore Niagara's lead, 38-37, with 8:10 left. That began a 17-3 run, capped by a steal and layup by Kayla Stroman, that gave the Purple Eagles a 52-40 lead with 4:11 left.

Niagara has won four of its last six games. The two losses in that span came to two of the best teams in the MAAC -- a 56-50 loss to No. 2 Fairfield and a 79-77 double overtime loss to No. 1 Marist.

Canisius (12-17, 6-12 MAAC) already had its tournament spot and opponent slated before Sunday's games. The Griffs were locked into the No. 8 seed and will face No. 9 Saint Peter's (4-25, 4-14 MAAC) at 2 p.m. Thursday in the first round of the MAAC Tournament. The reward for the winner is a game against No. 1 seed Marist at 1:30 p.m., Friday.

The Griffs failed to secure momentum for the tournament, dropping a 69-57 decision to Siena in the Koessler Center.

Kayla Hoohuli hit a three-pointer in the first minute of the game, but Siena scored the next 14 points to take a 14-3 lead. The Griffs would rally at various points, but they were never able to regain the lead as the Saints hit buckets in the final seconds of the shot clock.

"We didn't come out ready to play at the start of either half today, as Siena showed a lot of energy," Canisius coach Terry Zeh said. "Those shots that Siena made late in the shot clock feel worse when you're trying to dig out of a hole. We continue to put ourselves in that tough position of battling back from early deficits."

Ashley Wilkes scored a team-high 18 points while sophomore Jamie Ruttle had her second career double-double with 16 points and 10 rebounds.

The field for the MAAC tournament was set after Sunday's games.

Before Canisius and Saint Peter's meet, No. 7 Iona and No. 10 Rider will play at noon on Thursday in the first round. Quarterfinals will be Friday, semifinals Saturday and the championship game at noon on Monday.

email: amoritz@buffnews.com