LOUNDONVILLE, N.Y. - The North Carolina A&T women's basketball team set out to travel to Albany, N.Y., at 5:30 Monday morning. When the Aggies finally boarded their 8 a.m., flight out of the Raleigh-Durham International Airport, they and the other passengers on board were told by the captain that the aircraft could not get airborne because of mechanical problems.
A&T got off that flight, couldn't get another flight and therefore eventually drove 12 hours to Upstate New York after finally leaving the great state of North Carolina at 5 p.m., Monday. The Aggies arrived in Loundonville, N.Y., at 6 a.m., Tuesday for a scheduled 11 a.m., Tuesday game against Siena. They eventually got the game moved back to 7 p.m., Tuesday, but had to drive back to North Carolina Tuesday night.
In between the madness, A&T senior forward JaQuayla Berry came up with a steal with 4.5 seconds remaining to help the Aggies secure a 49-47 win over the Saints at the Alumni Recreational Center, making the trip back to the Gate City a little more bearable.
"I would like to thank coach (Ali) Jaques and her administration for moving the game back," said A&T coach Tarrell Robinson. "I actually begged her to move the game back, and she was gracious enough to do so. We talk about adversity and the steps it takes to overcome adversity. I think this trip helped us in that regard."
Robinson refused to make any excuses, but the awkwardness in which the game was played under may have impacted both teams. Berry got her steal after denying a pass intended for Lily Grenci in the post. Grenci fouled Berry, sending her to the line. Berry made one of two free throws to give the Aggies the 2-point cushion. It was the first point scored in the game in a little more than six minutes.
Siena's Ida Krogh saw her game-winning 3-point attempt go long at the buzzer as the Aggies improved to 2-2 by winning their second straight.
"Our Achilles heel appears to be appears to be executing against the zone," said Robinson. "I'm not afraid to put it out there because I think it's my responsibility to try to get us ready, and teach our kids how to make the proper reads and run the right sets. We haven't been aggressive in attacking the zone. We're going to have to get better because that's how teams are going to approach us."
There were only two moments of offensive rhythm on Tuesday. One occurred in the first half when A&T guard Amber Calvin torched the Saints for 20 first-half points. Similar to her performance against Iona last Friday night at A&T's Corbett Sports Center, Calvin jump started a sluggish Aggies offense with 3-point shooting.
The Aggies trailed by as many as seven points in the first half, but Calvin's third and final 3-pointer of the first half gave the Aggies a 26-22 lead with 2:19 remaining. Her floater in the lane just before the half gave the Aggies a 30-22 lead at halftime. She finished with 28 points on 5-for-6 shooting from 3-point range.
"If (Amber) doesn't play the way she played, I don't think we come out with this victory," Robinson said. "Amber has been awesome in reference to her understanding her role, and knowing we need her. She was awesome. She was able to get us going and get us the lead."
The second surge of offensive momentum took place in the second half when Siena (1-3) shot 55 percent over the first 12 minutes of the second half. The outburst helped the Saints cut the Aggies lead to one, 46-45. The Saints eventually took the lead, 47-46, on a Clara Sole Anglada layup with 6:37 remaining.
Adriana Nazario quickly helped the Aggies answer as she found a wide open Nikia Gorham underneath the basket for a layup with 6:15 to play. It would be the Aggies only field goal in the final 10:41 of the game, but it was enough.
"We're still trying to find our way when we're not playing at home," said Robinson. "We play with a lot more energy at home. This game was kind of like the Iona game. We picked up the momentum toward the end of the first half, but this time we were not able to keep it going in the second half. When we're on the road, we're all we've got. We've got to get each other going."
While Robinson looks forward to the Aggies playing better on the road, he hopes they don't have to do so after a 12-hour bus ride.