Marist’s MAAC Dreams Turn to Nightmares as St. Peter’s Advances

The third time isn’t always the charm.

Disappointment has consistently outlasted triumph for the Marist Men’s Basketball program. The team has had a long history of blowing leads and struggling defensively, which has often led to those aforementioned blown leads. On Thursday night, things seemed different, at least for the first 20 minutes. The only problem? A game is 40-minutes long.

After a hard fought, overtime effort in what would be their four seniors’ last game, Marist’s season came to an unfortunate end in a 71-68 loss at the hands of St. Peter’s. The Peacocks, Marist head coach John Dunne’s old team, will advance to take on top-seeded Iona in the second round. In addition, and perhaps vindictively, the Peacocks walk away with the proud distinction of taking down their old coach in all three of their opportunities to do so this season.

As mentioned beforehand, the first half belonged to Marist, and more succinctly, senior guard Brian Parker. His 12 points at the half (he had 22 for the game) led the Red Foxes, and his game, as put by the broadcast team, “lived in the lane.” Marist scored 28 total points in the paint, with Parker leading that charge and taking on more of a post-player role than his traditional one as floor general and point guard. His strength, a calling card as proclaimed in the past by his coach, was a first-half difference maker. Parker’s offensive production pushed Marist ahead, leading 37-27 at the half.

While the Red Foxes pumped their fists and celebrated a solid half, the Peacocks plotted their comeback. Davauhnte Turner, St. Peter’s star guard who had scored 38 combined points in the two teams’ previous matchups, was held to just two points in the first half. Were he to have been hitting his shots, perhaps the half would have gone differently. He finished with 18, making him both the leading scorer for the nine-seeded Peacocks, and the game’s overwhelming difference maker.

St. Peter’s would slowly chip away at Marist’s second-half lead before eviscerating it altogether at around the six-minute mark. As Marist would come up empty on straight possessions, St. Peter’s would push ahead, leading 57-50 and beginning the half on a 30-13 run. Marist would quickly return to the form they held in the first half, answering the Peacock’s scoring burst with an eight point swing of their own. Aleksandar Dozic, who had 11 for the game, nailed a three with five minutes to go, cutting the lead to just two. Merely 45 seconds later, he sank a layup and drew contact, then draining the free throw and giving Marist a 58-57 lead.

While the swing’s scoring was primarily credited to Dozic, it was Parker that got his teammates involved. Dozic’s two buckets during the pivotal run came off of Parker assists, both of which were pocket passes to the exact spot where Dozic could get his best shot off. They were two of Parker’s four team-leading assists.

Following the Marist mini-run was a simple basket trade, you could say. When St. Peter’s scored, Marist would answer, and vice versa. In short order, though, Ryan Funk would do what he does best, responding with a three of his own and cutting the lead to one with just over two minutes remaining. It was as back and forth and up for grabs as any basketball nut could have hoped for, especially on the biggest stage.

As the final moments of regulation waned on, it was, again, up for grabs. With close to a minute and a half left, Parker looked to attack the left side, his dominant, but by lowering his shoulder, he begged for an offensive foul call. The referee granted the indirect wish, sending it the other way. When Marist rebounded a St. Peter’s miss, Parker commanded the possession, leading to a turnover off of a pass attempt to Funk. His ability to take care of the ball lacked all season, and it cost his team late.

St. Peter’s inability to capitalize off of the various turnovers led to what looked to be Marist’s final shot, with the shot-clock turned off and the score tied at 63. In a last ditch effort, Parker elected to run an iso-drive play, and on the ensuing drive, he was met at the rim. The ball was sent out of bounds by a St. Peter’s block. They were awarded possession, but with merely one-second remaining and the length of the court to go, the chances at a miracle were slim. Turner’s miracle heave didn’t come close, and overtime loomed.

A majority of the extra period was a trading of baskets between the Foxes and the Peacocks, one of the most crucial being a backdoor cut to slam from Funk, pushing Marist ahead, 68-67. It seemed as though Marist would get the ball back as St. Peter’s forward Sam Idowu looked to turn it over. However, after a lengthy review, St. Peter’s was awarded possession, and they would promptly airball. To phrase it eloquently, the Peacock’s head coach, Shaheen Holloway, was unhappy.

After a miss on the Marist end, St. Peter’s Quinn Taylor drove to the basket and finished a layup to give the Peacocks a one-point lead. The more significant outcome of the bucket, though, is that Taylor was fouled by Brian Parker. The foul was his fifth and disqualifying, as he joined Lamb as one of two Foxes who would foul out.

Taylor missed the free throw, leaving the ball in Marist’s hands, down by one. Without Parker, Dunne’s scoring options were limited. The offensive lack would prove fatal, as Marist’s final shots were a long three-pointer and a contested floater, neither of which would fall. The Foxes did, though, ending their best season in terms of wins since 2014.

The loss marks the end of the Marist careers for seniors Brian Parker, David Knudsen, Isaiah Lamb and Ryan Funk. St. Peter’s will take on the Iona Gaels on Friday night for a spot in the MAAC semifinals.

Edited by Meaghan Roche

Header image courtesy of Marist Athletics

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