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Metro Atlantic Semifinal Preview

March 11, 2004 Conference Notes No Comments

Metro Atlantic Semifinals Preview

Preview by Jesse Ullmann

(1) Manhattan Jaspers v. (4) Saint Peters Peacocks
The heavy artillery comes out tonight as No. One Manhattan takes on St. Peters in what promises to be an up and down, fast-pace showcase. Never-say-never but the Jaspers probably have no shot at an at-large bid so they will have to win out for a spot in the NCAA tournament.

Manhattan is well rested with a bye to the semifinals and has spent the past three days at home in Riverdale, while St. Peters took a bruising last night in a second round overtime win eliminating Rider. Sophomore guard Keydren Clark (NY, NY), the nation’s leading scorer averaging 27.0 points per game, dropped in 22 versus Rider and got help from backcourt mate and 2004 MAAC Rookie of the Year guard Shane Nichols (Radford, VA), who added 14.

The defending MAAC tournament champion Manhattan is led by senior guard Luis Flores (NY, NY) who has combined for 56 points against the Peacocks in two wins this season. Flores has been selected as an NABC All-American nominee and is averaging 24.1 ppg, which is best for second in conference, trailing Clark. The Jaspers have beaten the Peacocks by an average of 10.5 points in both meetings.

This MAAC battle will be an awesome showcase of two New York City-born point guards in Flores (Norman Thomas) and Clark (Rice). Flores has a five-inch height advantage over Clark and the veteran experience.

Head coaches Bobby Gonzalez of Manhattan and Bob Leckie of St. Peters are two of the more enjoyable characters to watch in the MAAC and tonight’s game should be an event both on the sidelines as well as on the floor.

(2) Niagara Purple Eagles v. (6) Siena Saints
It was this time two years ago when Siena took the Metro Atlantic tournament championship and made it through to the second round of the NCAA tournament, so do not count them out.

After upsetting No. Three seed Fairfield with a 66-63 win last night, the Saints will play their third game in as many days this evening versus Niagara. The Purple Eagles have depth in Second Team All-MAAC selection senior guard Tremmel Darden (Las Vegas). Darden scored 21 points yesterday versus Iona before fouling out and is averaging 17.6 points per game this season. Niagara is led by All-MAAC First Team member, junior forward Juan Mendez (Quebec). Mendez played huge down the stretch for the Purple Eagles yesterday and averages 20.2 ppg and 8.3 rebounds per game.

Against the Gaels, Niagara had 31 bench points led by 13 from freshman guard J.R. Duffey (Ft. Worth, TX) and 10 including what was to be the game-winning basket, from freshman guard Lorenzo Miles (Washington, DC).

Siena has something to prove and will come into this game with a hometown crowd, playing on their hometown court in Albany, which always tends to be a benefactor. Fairfield’s Ty Goode (Brooklyn, NY), MAAC Defensive Player of the Year, shut down Siena’s senior guard Jamal Jackson yesterday so Jackson will have a chip on his shoulder. Sophomore guard Antoine Jordan’s (Philadelphia, PA) smooth play after returning from a sever ankle injury has propelled head coach Rob Lanier to insert him back into the starting lineup.

Second Team All-MAAC selection sophomore guard Michael Haddix (Philadelphia, PA) will give Mendez a bruising on defense. Haddix nearly averages a double-double with 15.7 ppg to go along with 9.2 rpg.

Niagara defeated Siena in both contests this year by five and four points respectively so a potentially-vindicated Siena will come out looking to even the score.

The Saints have the highest attendance numbers in conference so the Pepsi Arena will be jumping. Tip-off is schedule for 9:45 tonight (preceded by the first semifinal). The game may go into Monday morning. So far every tournament game has been decided following the final television timeout. This could be an all-out war.

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