Heading into last month’s home meeting against Rider, Marist was firing on all cylinders. The Red Foxes had won six straight games and scored at least 90 in their last three contests, something previously unheard of in Brian Giorgis’ distinguished tenure. A win against the Broncs would have cemented Marist’s position at the top of the MAAC and would have enabled Giorgis’ team to possibly extend its winning streak to double-digits.
It didn’t shake out that way. Rider, led by the country’s top scorer, Stella Johnson, left McCann with an overtime victory. Helped by clutch performances from Johnson (28 points) and Lea Favre (24) along with a miracle three-quarter court buzzer-beater from Amanda Mobley that ended the first half, the Broncs were the squad that took all the momentum from the contest. And, inherently, stole it from Marist. Rider, who entered the contest with a seven-game winning streak, saw it grow to 14, starting MAAC play 10-0.
To add insult to injury (really the other way around), the Red Foxes lost starting guard Sarah Barcello to a leg injury. It would cost her several games, as she did not come back until Saturday’s home win against Manhattan.
Barcello, one of the team’s sharpshooters, had not enjoyed a particularly successful sophomore season from three-point range, her average barely hovering above 30 percent. In addition to her lackluster numbers, Marist’s three-point shooting took a particularly steep dive in the last three games of her absence. The low point? A three-for-15 team effort in the loss at Fairfield.
Once Barcello was plugged back into the starting five against Manhattan, the numbers rocketed up. She connected on four triples and the team hit 13 out of 29. Now back at full health for the first time since Willow Duffell’s early-season injury, the Red Foxes look to regain footing at the very top of the MAAC.
Rider was sitting at a perfect 10-0 in conference play before an ugly 67-56 loss at Saint Peter’s on Thursday. Marist sits a half-game back of the Broncs at 10-2 in the MAAC, winners of three straight since the Fairfield debacle. A win would put the Red Foxes back in the driver’s seat in the conference, as winning out would guarantee them no worse than a share of the regular-season title. Losing in New Jersey would complicate things for Marist, dropping them into a tie in the loss-column with Fairfield and would leave them with two more losses than Rider, who would also have the tiebreaker on their side.
At this point, Brian Giorgis would remind me of his “one game at a time” philosophy that he stressed after Saturday’s win. The Red Foxes are in the midst of a four-game, eight-day stretch that will see them play three games this week. The approach is clear: focus on the task at hand. The task just happens to be slowing down the conference leader and the nation’s leading scorer.
Giorgis is looking to build on the positive momentum his team has built over the last few games.
“We just want to do what we’ve been doing the last three games,” he said. “We need to execute well on offense, have good movement, and get stops on defense.”
Marist can ill-afford to allow a duo of Rider players to combine for over 50 points like they did in Poughkeepsie, but Giorgis’ focus is not all on Stella Johnson.
“We have to do a better job on Lea Favre,” he emphasized. “She has hurt us every time. They’ve got multiple people who can score and defend.”
The biggest game of Marist’s season tips-off at 7 p.m. on Tuesday.
Edited by Will Bjarnar