Marist’s past few meetings with the Fairfield Stags have been — to put it simply — nothing to write home about. They had lost six of their last seven at the hands of the Stags, a streak that they looked to stifle last night in Poughkeepsie. Unfortunately, sometimes streaks aren’t prepared to be broken.
Despite a valiant second-half effort and turnaround, Marist fell short, unable to enlist the winning formula it took to down the Iona Gaels just two nights prior. Coming off that 78-74 victory over Iona, the Red Foxes were on a mission to advance their standing in the MAAC. Tonight, they fell short of that goal and ultimately fell to the Stags in a 57-52 thriller.
Marist started the game cold, and it put a damper on things moving forward. Coach John Dunne had stressed how important it was that the Foxes come into the game prepared and ready to play. His team faced a lot of pressure in the first half, though, coughing up the ball six times. Dunne’s words following the game said it all: “I thought [in] the first half, we didn’t even show up to play,” he said, citing the lack of energy coming from the team. The Foxes simply couldn’t get shots to drop, as they went a staggering 9-for-27 from the field, good for 33.3 percent shooting. The Stags were able to play great defense and refused to give Marist any open shots, causing a number of their shots to seem forced and heavily contested. On the flip side of the coin, Fairfield was able to make 13 of 22 total shots in the first, which helped to give them a 10 point lead at the half (32-22).
The Foxes started the second half off hot, quickly erasing the Stags 10 point lead in only three minutes. They scored nine unanswered points, making the score 32-31, Fairfield. The poor first half shooting performance soon seemed like a distant memory, as Brian Parker scored a quick four points with ease. The game’s intensity began to pick up, as Marist was able to get it’s shooting touch back. Ryan Funk scored two threes early in the half, allowing Marist to start off with a 12-5 scoring run.
By the time the clock hit the 10-minute mark, Marist still only trailed by one, 41-40. However, the fouls were starting to pile up for the Foxes; within those first 10 minutes, they had been called for seven fouls, allowing the Stags to add four from the charity stripe. This also slowed down the pace of the game, something Marist had kept rather high in the early going. The foul trouble certainly put Marist in a tough spot. It felt like the Stags were going to the line on nearly every possession.
Brian Parker carried the load scoring wise as he racked up 17 points, 12 coming in the second half, finishing the night shooting a clean 7-for-12 from the field. Parker took control of the game, as Marist put the ball in his hands often. He didn’t disappoint. The comeback, though, wouldn’t have been possible without the play of Ryan Funk, who scored 13 of his own on 5-for-10 shooting. Funk was able to throw down a mean dunk with two-and-a-half minutes left in the game, lighting a fire under the crowd and cutting the Stag-lead to three.
The difference in the second half was the defensive adjustments made by Dunne’s squad. After allowing the Stags to shoot 13-for-22 from the field in the first half, the Foxes buckled down and held them to 7-for-22 in the second. This, as well as Marist’s ability to rid themselves of their own poor shooting by going 12-for-24 on field goals in the second half, was a game changer. “It was no X’s and O’s; it was all effort,” Dunne said after the game. This was demonstrated on the court for all to see tonight, as Marist showed resilience and heart during the comeback.
Those aforementioned fouls did the Foxes in late in the game, as they could not keep their hands off the Stags. They were able to pull away and keep the ball out of the Foxes hand thwarting their exciting comeback, scoring the final seven points on their way to a 57-52 victory. It was a disappointing end to an excellent game, in which the fans were enthused, showing out and bringing a ton of Red Fox support, as they tend to do. When asked about what the team could take out of their performance, Dunne said, “ I think the effort we played with in the second half was growth for this group.”
It just goes to show, though: it’s a game with two halves.
Edited by Will Bjarnar