If it’s an 11 a.m. tip-off for Niagara and Canisius women’s basketball on a weekday, it must mean its Kids’ Day.
The 21st annual event resulted in a split of Metro Atlantic Athletic Conference results for the two Western New York programs.
Niagara defeated Siena 68-61 in overtime while Canisius fell 90-59 to Marist. Each game was sold out with tickets not available to the public.
Niagara (3-9, 1-2 MAAC) picked up its first conference win of the season but early on it looked like a blowout loss.
The Purple Eagles fell behind 6-0 in the opening minutes before Maggie McIntyre netted Niagara’s first shot, a 3-pointer. But Niagara couldn’t build from the score and would finish the first quarter down 16-5. By the end of the game, Siena wished they had scored more.
The tide turned in the second as the Purple Eagles opened the period on a 6-0 run of their own. Emerald Ekpiteta’s big day was just beginning, with four of the six points in the stretch.
Still, Niagara remained behind by nine points with 6:30 left to play in the half.
Ekpiteta would spark another run for Niagara. This time it was 10-0. The sophomore forward scored another four of her eventual game-high 22 points. By the end of the half Siena’s first quarter lead was nearly erased. The Saints led, 28-26.
Three minutes into the third, Niagara would get the deficit to one from a 3 by Adia Brisker in the corner. But Siena always had an answer for the Purple Eagles. The Saints extended their lead back to eight, leading 41-33.
The Purple Eagles didn’t back down. A McIntyre three, basket from Brisker, and an additional five points from Ekpiteta would comprise another 10-0 for Niagara, making it 43-42 at the end of the third.
Entering the fourth, Niagara still hadn’t led at any point. With 3:45 left to play, McIntyre converted two foul shots to put them in front 50-49.
Siena nearly snuck out with the victory. Niagara had the ball and put it in Ekpiteta’s hands. Siena led 55-53 and with 0:01 on the clock, Ekpiteta was fouled. She made both shots, forcing overtime.
Coach Jada Pierce’s team had shown enough resiliency to make it to overtime and they’d be rewarded.
Ekpiteta kicked off the period with a three-point play, followed by eight straight points from McIntyre, and lastly two more free throws from Ekpiteta to seal it 68-61.
“I told our players before the game, embrace the energy that these kids are going to give us,” Pierce said. “I think we gave it all today and these young people were amazing. They never fail us. Every year it gets louder and louder.”
Ekpiteta also had 15 rebounds with her 22 points while McIntyre had 18 points.
Canisius (2-10, 1-2 MAAC) played a Marist team that’s looking to finish as the top team in the MAAC. At 10-2, 3-0, the Red Foxes overpowered the struggling Griffins.
Canisius was able to keep pace with Marist for most of the opening quarter. Then the Red Foxes utilized a 13-5 spurt to take a 25-18 lead. The second would result in much of the same for Canisius and Marist.
The Griffins would keep pace until Marist went on a run. In the quarter, Marist scored seven straight and take their largest lead of the half, 38-24. The half ended with Marist up 44-30.
Marist kept coming after Canisius, resulting in a 23-point quarter and a 21-point lead. The Griffs turned it over six times in the third, resulting in a impassioned statement from head coach Scott Hemer postgame.
“I think that the message to the team is ‘are you ok with being that team, are you ok with nine rebounds in a half of basketball, are you ok with having to have your coach call you out in the middle of the third quarter to start executing better on both ends?’ ” Hemer said.
The Red Foxes went up by 27 points in the fourth and closed the game with a 31-point differential.
It was Canisius’ eighth straight loss to Marist. Danielle Sanderlin and D’Jhai Patterson-Ricks were the only scorers in double-figures for Canisius with 15 and 10, respectively.
Canisius will play Siena Saturday at 2 p.m. and Niagara will host Marist Saturday at 1 p.m.