The closest scoring race in recent memory for women's basketball players in the MAAC is in full bloom right now, made all the more noticeable by the meeting of the top two contenders in a game Saturday afternoon.
That was when Iona played at Siena. At the time, the Gaels' dynamic freshman guard Damika Martinez entered play just four one-hundredths of a point ahead of the Saints' potent junior post player Lily Grenci.
Siena earned an 83-59 victory over Iona as Grenci outscored Martinez, 20-15.
It moved Grenci back into the top spot with a scoring average of 15.57 points per game. Martinez is close behind at 15.36 ppg.
Both players are back at it in the individual chase for the scoring lead when their teams play again Friday. Siena is at Saint Peter's, while Iona is at Loyola.
The chase is somewhat remarkable since neither player has much, if any, of a history of strong consistent scoring prior to this season.
Until this season, Grenci battled foot and ankle injuries over her first two season that severely limited her court time. She only got into 18 games as a freshman and 25 games, averaging just 13.6 minutes of playing time last season. Her career scoring average entering play this year was 3.2 points per game.
The slender 5-foot-7 Martinez was a high school senior at this time a year ago.
And, now, they lead a very close chase ... possibly the closest in league history ... atop the league's scoring chart. Not far behind are Marist's senior guard Corielle Yarde (14.8 ppg.), and Loyola standouts junior guard Katie Sheahin (14.5) and senior forward Miriam McKenzie (14.3).
Grenci is on pace to become the second Siena player to lead the league in scoring in the past two seasons. Former teammate Serena Moore led the MAAC with a 14.8 ppg. average last season. Overall, Siena players have led the conference in scoring four times since 1997-98 (Melanie Halker in 1997-98 and '98-99; Laura Menty in 2007-08 and Moore last season). No other program has had as many scoring leaders over that time.
Martinez, though, is in range of a historical achievement.
No freshman has ever led the conference in scoring in its 30-year history. In fact, no freshman has ever finished higher than fifth in the final scoring standings. The highest finish ever by a freshman came in the 2006-07 season with Rachele Fitz of Marist finished fifth with a per-game average of 14.9.