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Canisius women edge Niagara in OT, 68-66

LEWISTON – Senior forward Crystal Porter drove across the lane and hit a 5-foot leaning shot with 0.2 seconds left in overtime Thursday to give Canisius College a 68-66 victory over Niagara University.

It was a much-needed win for the Golden Griffins, who had lost three straight and eight of their last nine.

“I wanted the game so bad,” Porter said. “We all wanted the game really bad. You could tell in our eyes, in our body language. . . . It was a lot of fun. I love it.”

The outcome kept alive Canisius’ hopes of a middle-of-the-pack finish in the Metro Atlantic Athletic Conference. Canisius, picked for sixth in the 11-team league, improved to 9-11 overall and 4-7. Niagara dropped to 6-14 and 4-7 before a Gallagher Center crowd of 484.

“It’s Canisius-Niagara, what would it be without overtime and a buzzer beater?” said Canisius coach Terry Zeh. “That was a fun game for people to watch.”

Player of the game: Porter scored a season-high 22 points on 11-of-17 shooting and added eight rebounds and six assists. Niagara tied it, 66-66, on a layup by Kaylee Stroemple with 7.3 seconds left. Canisius set up the last shot for its senior leader.

“All I heard,” Porter said of the final timeout discussion, “was get it to me in the middle.”

“Crystal was really good in the middle of their zone,” Zeh said. “We were playing through her in the middle.”

Top Eagle: Niagara got a career-high 24 points from junior guard Tiffany Corselli, who was averaging 7.6 ppg. She hit 5 of 9 three-pointers, with all five coming in the first quarter. Niagara was averaging only 2.9 made threes a game.

“The game plan more was get the ball to the post and work inside-out,” Corselli said. “But coaches all week had been telling us a lot of teams have been laying off and doubling the post. They told us we had to step up and make shots, so my mindset was just to be ready when I got the ball.”

Clutch shooter: Canisius got 19 points from 5-9 sophomore Margret Halfdanardottir, one of two Icelanders on the Griff team. Halfdanardottir hit a corner three to put Canisius up, 59-57, with 42 seconds left in regulation. She hit a three from the wing with 1:07 left in overtime to tie it at 64. And she hit two free throws to make it 66-64 after grabbing an offensive rebound and getting fouled with 28 seconds left.

Halfdanardottir is having a breakout season. She averaged 14 minutes and 3.7 points as a freshman. She’s at 28 minutes and a team-high 9.2 ppg this year.

“I just have a lot more confidence,” Halfdanardottir said. “Coming from the Icelandic league to this league is different. I was kind of passive and observing everything and wasn’t really sure if I was doing things right last year. But after summer being with the national team at home, I felt a lot more confident and thought I’m going to show it this year.”

On point: Both team’s point guards were good. Canisius’ Tamara Miskovic, a junior from Serbia, played 45 minutes and had nine assists and one turnover. She’s the only true point guard on the team since Canisius lost senior Tiahana Mills to a season-ending knee injury four games ago. Niagara sophomore Jamie Sherburne had five assists and two turnovers in 40 minutes.

“Miskovic was just phenomenal,” Zeh said. “She played 45 minutes . . . and they were dogging her the length of the floor the whole game.”

Post up: Niagara got 15 points and 11 rebounds from Stroemple and 10 points with nine rebounds from senior center Sam Lapszynski. Lapszynski played 35 minutes despite tweaking a knee and ankle during the game. She’s having a career year, ranking fifth in the MAAC in scoring (13.3) and fourth in rebounding (8.1). That has helped Niagara avoid collapse since the loss of star Victoria Rampado to a season-ending shoulder injury.

Up next: Canisius plays host to Iona at 7 p.m. Sunday. Niagara plays host to Iona at 3 p.m. Saturday.

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