POUGHKEEPSIE, N.Y. – A quick sharpshooter versus a dominant force down low. Two completely different styles of play, but two great scorers of the basketball.
In a battle of the top two scorers in the MAAC, Niagara forward Victoria Rampado got the best of Marist guard Rebekah Hand. More than that, Niagara led for the entire game in a 68-61 win on Saturday night in McCann Arena.
Rampado, averaging a conference-best 20.9 points on the year, became the all-time leading scorer in Niagara Women’s Basketball history in a home game against Monmouth on Feb. 18. She posted 19 points against the Red Foxes, shooting 8-9 from the free throw line, bringing her career total to 1,788 points. Rampado added a game-high 11 rebounds to record her 14th double-double of the season.
Marist Head Coach Brian Giorgis has become familiar with Rampado, the fifth-year senior and two-time All-MAAC First-Team selection. “She’s tough. She’s arguably the best player in the league, so I think we did a pretty good job on her tonight,” Giorgis said.
The game plan for defending Rampado has been the same for Giorgis for years now. “Basically, you try to deny her the ball and then when she gets it, you try to get some help on her,” Giorgis said. It might seem simple, but Rampado led her team to a third consecutive victory in Poughkeepsie.
Meanwhile, Hand paced Marist in the first half with 11 points, but redshirt sophomore Alana Gilmer was not far behind with 10. Hand went quiet in the second half, but Gilmer kept her momentum going. Early in the second half, Gilmer scored six straight points for Marist en route to a 20-point performance. Hand finished with 16 points on 4-12 shooting, with four 3-pointers.
Niagara jumped out to a 21-14 lead after the first period, including a 7-0 run from points by four different Purple Eagles. In a game that was mostly back-and-forth from then on, this period proved to be a deciding factor.
The Purple Eagles carried a 36-28 lead into the half and remained ahead for the rest of the game.
“Every run we made at them they answered,” Giorgis said.
Marist also committed 22 turnovers in the contest, leading to 18 points for Niagara.
The powerful tandem of the 6’2” Rampado and fellow senior Kaylee Stroemple, at 6’0”, has averaged nearly 32 points combined this season. Marist slowed both down compared to their meeting at Niagara earlier this year. The pair combined for 40 in their previous match-up, but managed only 27 total points with Stroemple adding eight of her own.
Breaking down the MAAC standings, this was essentially a meaningless game for Marist because despite the loss, the Red Foxes secured the 2-seed in the MAAC Tournament after last week’s games. Marist’s Kendall Baab was honored for senior night in a pre-game ceremony, as she was presented with a plaque and flowers before tip-off.
“I changed it into positive energy,” Baab said after the game. “I wanted to play for the crowd, and for my family, and for my team.”
The opening round of the MAAC Tournament will be played on Thursday, March 1, at the Times Union Center in Albany. Niagara will be seeded in the middle of the pack, posting an even 9-9 record in the conference, and 12-17 overall.
Marist finishes at 14-4 in conference play and 18-12 overall. Quinnipiac will be the top-seed after downing Marist in a double overtime thriller last weekend. The Red Foxes will enjoy a first-round bye before playing the winner of the 7th– and 10th-seed game on Friday. There is a chance that Marist could meet up with Niagara in a tournament game soon.
“It is a tough way to end the season, but we are 17-5 in the last 22 games and we can’t forget that,” Giorgis said.