Loyola stretches season


ALBANY, N.Y. -- Patty Stoffey just had added one historical footnote to her considerable basketball biography, becoming the first woman to be voted Most Valuable Player twice in the Metro Atlantic Athletic Conference tournament.

Instead of some uphill battle against Connecticut or Tennessee in the NCAA tournament next week, did any part of Stoffey want her Greyhounds career to end on yesterday's high note, a 67-51 rout of Fairfield in the MAAC championship game that was a testimony to her resolve and that of her teammates?

"Nah," Stoffey said. "I don't want this to end. I need another two weeks to be teammates with these guys. I'll be up at 6 and stretching in the gym at 6:30 in a couple of days."

In a nutshell, that's Stoffey, a 5-foot-10 forward who seems to get as much pleasure from the process -- practice -- as the results -- two MAAC titles and NCAA berths, 2,438 career points and 1,017 rebounds.

Stoffey and three other seniors, forward Camille Joyner, center Patty Taylor and point guard Colleen Colsher, get to keep practicing because of another nasty defensive effort and because they rallied around Stoffey, just as their coach, Pat Coyle, had predicted.

Stoffey came into the tournament shooting 57.5 percent from the field, but when she missed from close in three minutes into the second half, she was mired in a 3-for-10 performance and the Greyhounds (20-8) were stuck in a 26-26 tie.

Stoffey wouldn't miss again. She made her last five shots to finish with 22 points and 10 rebounds, and she got the help she needed. Down 30-29, the Greyhounds broke it open with a 9-0 run that included just one basket by Stoffey. Taylor and Joyner were clapping their hands and asking for the ball, much to Stoffey's delight.

"We can read each other pretty well," Stoffey said. "When I'm hot, they know to get me the ball, but I was struggling. Some teams would've kept dumping the ball into me, but my teammates knew they had to want the ball."

Stoffey, the first MAAC Player of the Year in a decade to go on and lead her team to the tournament title, got the ball enough over three games at Knickerbocker Arena to collect 71 points and 31 rebounds.

She was joined on the all-tournament team by Joyner, who had her 1,000th career point en route to a 13-point, seven-rebound game. Taylor had a huge second half, when she got 10 of her 12 points and eight of her 10 rebounds. When Fairfield fouled in a futile attempt to erase a 19-point deficit, the Greyhounds made 12 of their last 13 free throws.

In all three tournament games, fourth-seeded Loyola started slowly but came on strong while the opposition crumbled in the second half. Joyner, who usually checks the opposition's top scorer, was the focal point of a defense that limited opponents to 33.2 percent shooting during the tournament.

"That's probably the most incredible effort we've had," Coyle said. "We don't run up and down the floor and score 100 points, but this team plays defense. It also helped that everyone felt a need to send her [Stoffey] out a winner. She won't understand what she's done for Loyola for a couple of years."

Loyola will miss Stoffey, but the rest of the MAAC was glad to see her go.

"She's a nightmare to coach against, but I'm sure she's a dream to coach," said Dianne Nolan, the Fairfield coach. "She's a consummate player who knows the game in and out, and gets the big numbers in a silent way. She's been a great ambassador for the league. Sometimes, the best player in a league has an [bad] attitude, but she doesn't."

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