ALBANY, N.Y.—The top seeded Quinnipiac Bobcats defeated the second-seeded Marist Red Foxes in the MAAC Women’s Basketball Championship game by a final score of 67-58 this afternoon. Marist’s record following the defeat is 20-13 overall, and while they lost today, their season will continue, as they earned a WNIT berth by being a conference finalist. Quinnipiac completed their undefeated season in MAAC play and earned an automatic bid to the NCAA tournament.
The MAAC finals did not disappoint with the two top teams in the conference battling it out in a highly competitive game. Quinnipiac’s Jen Fay finished the game with 23 points, 19 of which came in the second half, and was awarded MAAC Tournament Most Valuable Player during the post-game ceremony. Alana Gilmer led the Red Foxes in scoring with 19 points.
Marist started off strong, with Grace Vander Weide and Gilmer both knocking down three pointers on consecutive drives. Quinnipiac responded later in the quarter and hit two threes of their own, made by Paula Strautmane and Brittany Martin, making it a three-point game at the end of the first.
Gilmer and Rebekah Hand started the second quarter by both completing three point plays by finishing their respective layups and free throws, which pushed the Marist lead to 22-16. Marist was able to contest Quinnipiac’s outside shots early on, causing the Bobcats to shoot 5 for 14 from behind the three point line in the first half.
Another key for Marist’s early success was their ability to limit their turnovers to five for the half. In their last game against Siena, the Red Foxes had 13 turnovers in the first half and knew they would have to limit their mistakes if they wanted to have a chance to take down Quinnipiac.
Marist maintained a small lead for most of the first half, but a pair of threes from Quinnipiac’s Carly Fabbri made it a one point game by the half’s end. Gilmer was again the star for the Red Foxes on the offensive end; she scored 15 points and had four assists in the half. The game was tight, with Marist leading 35-34 at halftime
The intensity of the game increased as soon as the second half began. Quinnipiac began to take control of the game with Fay hitting two three-pointers in the first three minutes of the half, helping Quinnipiac take a seven point lead. Marist’s turnover problem came back in the second half, as they gave up five in the third quarter.
Unlike Siena, the Red Foxes’ previous opponent, Quinnipiac was able to capitalize off Marist’s turnovers, scoring 16 total points off of those mistakes. Later in the quarter, Quinnipiac’s starting guard Aryn McClure injured her right leg and was helped off the court during the third quarter. She did not return to the game, but the Bobcats held a lead heading into the fourth.
Quinnipiac maintained that small lead throughout the majority of the final quarter. The Red Foxes were unable to take the lead in the fourth, but were able to make it close on a couple of occasions. A Vander Weide jumper put the Red Foxes within one point with seven minutes left.
Later on, Rebekah Hand made a three pointer to bring Marist back within two points with five minutes left. However, Quinnipiac went 3 for 5 in the fourth, and the Bobcats were able to put the Red Foxes away with their shooting. The final blows for Marist came from a Fay three pointer and a trip to the line for Fay on the next drive. This brought the Bobcat’s lead up to seven with 2:17 left, and they never looked back.
This was the first trip to the finals for Marist in last three seasons. Marist saw major improvements from their 15-17 record last season, which was the first time since 2002-03 season that the women’s basketball team had a record under .500. All of the regular starters for the Red Foxes will return next year, and the chase for an NCAA tournament berth for the first time in five seasons will be back in full swing. Marist’s All-MAAC players this season, Alana Gilmer and Rebekah Hand, both have two years left of eligibility after this season.
The bracket for the WNIT will be announced on the evening of March 12th.