By Patrick Preston
Dedication, Loyalty, Heart. These are the three qualities that every leader must possess. When you are the only senior on a team because all of the rest of the kids you came in with freshman year jumped ship, then these are qualities that must rest on just one person. A lesser man may have been crushed with that responsibility. Fortunately enough, Tay Fisher is not a lesser man.
So when Fisher told his teammates in the visitor’s locker room at Boise State that all they had to do was win six games in a row, the teammates listened. For when the senior speaks, everyone’s ears perk up.
The Times Union Center’s crowd of over 9,000 fans (give or take a few Rider Faithful) was rocking and rolling on Monday night. The Saints came out, and clearly were fired up from the get go. The intensity clearly intimidated the Broncs, as 6-11 NBA lottery pick Jason Thomson could not even win the tip over Eddie Ubiles. Call it home court advantage, call it injuries on Rider, call it momentum, call it swagger, call it what you will, but the Saints were clearly in the zone, and the Broncs couldn’t keep up.
This Saints team had a tough road to get to the final. Despite being the #1 seed, the Saints had to play opponents who matched up well with them. First came Manhattan, who despite being the 8 seed, kept the game rather close throughout. That Manhattan team had beaten the Saints a few weeks prior. If not for the X-Man, Alex Franklin, the Saints might have been beaten.
Next, the Green and Gold had to face Loyola. The Saints had not beaten the Greyhounds in the two previous meetings this season, and for most of the game it looked like they were going to make it three. That was until Big Game Kenny Hasbrouck decided that he had enough of the Greyhounds’ 17 point lead. He took the game over and brought it to a tie score when Josh Duell added a deuce and the X-Man had the block of his career.
It was clear from the outset that the Saints did not want to fall into a similar situation that they did when they lost to the Broncs at home earlier in the season, a game that was also televised on ESPN2. Even clearer was how Tay Fisher wanted to make his 22nd birthday his best. The short guy with the big heart, not to mention the even bigger long-range shot, put the team on his back. It was clear that they enjoyed the ride. The saints went into halftime with an 11 point lead.
The second half saw the saints bring the lead to thirty, and they never looked back. Tay Fisher was greeted by the fans with a singing of “happy birthday.” The fans also added “Fran for Governor”, “Lets Go Dancing”, and for the Broncs, “Back to Jersey.”
Tay Fisher saw so many of his classmates dart out of Siena after freshman year. Jack McClinton went to Miami, Kojo Mensah went to Duquesne, and Joel Greene went to Rider. Unless Jack’s Hurricanes win the ACC tournament, it is safe to say that only one member of the recruiting class of 2004 will be punching his ticket to the Big Dance this year.
Whoever the Saints play in the upcoming NCAA tournament game, one thing is for certain. The loyal senior who welcomed a new coach, a new system, and a new role of coming off the bench, will be the one to pump up the team.
And to all of the rest of the players on that team, Lets shock the world and win one for #4!