Flyers reflect on special season after bowing out of NCAA tournament

Dayton guard Jenna Giacone (12) steals a pass ahead of Georgia forward Javyn Nicholson, left, during the second half of a first round game in the NCAA women's college basketball tournament, Friday, March 18, 2022, in Ames, Iowa. (AP Photo/Charlie Neibergall)

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Dayton guard Jenna Giacone (12) steals a pass ahead of Georgia forward Javyn Nicholson, left, during the second half of a first round game in the NCAA women's college basketball tournament, Friday, March 18, 2022, in Ames, Iowa. (AP Photo/Charlie Neibergall)

AMES, Iowa — Shauna Green stood in the hallway next to her team’s locker room. She attempted to digest Dayton’s season-ending defeats moments after it ended Friday night against Georgia in the NCAA Tournament.

A few moments earlier, the Flyers shed tears. Green led her players to the dais to meet with reporters. The emotions became quickly evident with red faces and tired eyes.

As Green processed the emotions, she found sophomore center Tenin Magassa, who had seven blocks in Dayton’s win over DePaul on Wedesday in the FirstFour. Magassa missed Friday’s game with a shoulder injury. Green rested her hands on Magassa’s shoulders and her voice began to break

“It wasn’t meant to be,” Green told Magassa.

After a 31-point win over the Blue Demons, the Flyers had confidence that they could pull off the upset over a Georgia team that finished 3-4 to end the regular season then lost it’s Southeastern Conference Tournament opener to Alabama.

“I could have sat in there for probably two hours and in a million different ways tell them how much I love them,” Green said. “They don’t want to hear that and I would’ve been crying the whole time. They were so focused on the goal and task at hand (through the entire season).”

Dayton is a group with a mix of veteran leadership and young prospects that prove potential for a bright future. Magassa and Makira Cook, who led Dayton with 21 points against Georgia, are only sophomores. Brynn Shoup-Hill played more minutes to fill Magassa’s role, and got valuable tournament experience as a freshman.

Jenna Giacone’s six years in a Dayton uniform came to an end. Kyla Whitehead, Araion Bradshaw, Amari Davidson and Erin Whalen could’ve also played their final game for the Flyers.

“They are really good players and they decided to come back and represent Dayton and play with their team,” Green said. “I think that says a lot about Dayton and our culture, and more importantly, what these kids are made of.”

Cook walked away from the loss to Georgia with pride. She might’ve even felt some joy with the opportunity to play under the teaching of Green and the leadership of Giacone and Whalen.

Giacone always dreamed of playing in the NCAA tournament. Dayton had its name called in her freshman and sophomore seasons, but a slew of injuries kept Giacone out of action. Green holds immense gratitude for her sixth-year senior, because she thought Giacone’s basketball career could’ve ended prematurely due to multiple foot surgeries and the daunting recoveries that followed.

Once Giacone got to Ames, however, it all came full-circle. She scored 21 points on DePaul.

“I couldn’t be more proud of this entire team to be able to come out, battle, make it to the NCAA tournament and respond from last year,” she said. “It was just a great, fun senior official year for me. No regrets in terms of coming back or any decision I made with that.”

In many ways, Dayton met its goal. It had an unforgettable season, and one filled with memories that some — including Green — can cherish forever.

On its final night of the campaign, though, it wasn’t meant to be.

“They are going to hold a special place in my heart,” Green said.

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