By Jonah Bronstein
BUFFALO — Jaclyn Konieczka has made just two 3-pointers in her senior season, and none in her first three years at Niagara. She’s also never hit a game-winning shot, at any level, from any spot on the floor.
Before Friday night, that is.
When the final play broke down and Konieczka found herself open at the top of the key, she squared up and let it fly, rattling in a 3-pointer with 2.8 seconds left that gave Niagara a 49-46 win over rival Canisius.
“I know I can make those,” she said. “We practice those every day.”
Coach Kendra Faustin said the play she drew up during a timeout with 13.7 seconds left called for the Purple Eagles to get something going toward the basket, but when the ball was swung to the 6-foot-1 post player, she had no issue with Konieczka putting up the shot.
“When they’re confident, I’m confident,” Faustin said.
Niagara (12-14, 9-6) dug out of an early 14-point hole to win for the ninth time in 11 games, and claim sole possession of third place in the Metro Atlantic Athletic Conference standings.
“We led for the wrong 39 minutes and 57 seconds,” said Canisius coach Terry Zeh. “We needed to lead for the three seconds they led.”
Canisius (10-16, 5-10) was up 44-35 with nine minutes to go, but the Purple Eagles closed the game on a 14-2 run.
Rachele Folino scored all of her seven points during the finishing kick. She started the run with a layup, and then scored five points in a span of 1:14, forcing the game’s only two ties.
With the score knotted at 46 with 1:18 left to play, Niagara didn’t allow Canisius to get a good look at the basket for 25 seconds. After a timeout, Micayla Drysdale threw up on an off-balance 3-pointer that missed badly and Folino grabbed the rebounds.
The Golden Griffins got another chance when Brittane Russell, the school’s all-time steals leader, took the ball away from Folino. Russell missed a layup with 33 seconds left, and Konieczka grabbed the rebound.
“The seniors stepped up huge, hitting big shots and getting big rebounds down the stretch,” Faustin said.
The Purple Eagles shot 29 percent from the field and turned the ball over 12 times in the first half, but kept their composure to shoot 46 percent and commit only seven turnovers in the second half.
Konieczka and Kayla Stroman led Niagara with nine points each, and Ali Morris had eight. Leading scorer Liz Flooks had only six points, less than half her average.
With three regular season games remaining, including the final two at the Gallagher Center, Niagara is picking up steam for a run at next month’s MAAC tournament.
“I think we are a really good team, and we’re just coming out and trying to prove it to every one,” Konieczka said.
“We’re hoping to earn respect in this league,” Folino said. “Whether they give it to us or not.”
Contact reporter Jonah Bronstein at 282-2311, ext. 2258.