Marist used a mix of timely offense and smothering defense to hand Fairfield a 56-38 defeat on Friday evening at Alumni Hall. With the win, the Red Foxes move into first place in the MAAC.
Even without leading scorer Sarah Barcello for the second consecutive game, Marist shot 58 percent in the second half against their opponent’s 2-3 zone and pulled away in the fourth quarter, dealing the Stags their first conference loss.
“That’s a great win,” Marist head coach Brian Giorgis stated after the game. “Fairfield is the best offensive team in the league, and our defense came up big tonight. We got a bit lucky catching Lou Lopez-Senechal on an off night, but credit to Trinasia Kennedy for her work on the defensive end. The kids played really hard tonight.”
After Fairfield’s Sam Lewis hit a three to cut Marist’s lead to 45-36 with 6:35 left, the Red Foxes showed that they had learned a thing or two about finishing tight games in the previous weeks. Allie Best chose a strange time to do her banking, as she caromed in a three to restore the lead to 12. Trinasia Kennedy nailed a long-range shot on the next possession, and Marist saw its advantage grow to as much as 20 in the closing minutes.
“We had some good high-lows, and we made shots in the second half,” continued Giorgis. “We got some good looks in the first half that didn’t go down, but we stuck with it, and we were able to execute.”
Despite dealing with foul trouble in the second half, Caitlin Weimar was the beneficiary of the zone offense the Red Foxes ran, leading the team with 12 points. Best shot three-for-eight from three-point range and finished with 11.
Willow Duffell set up shop as the zone-breaker in the high post, scoring eight points, grabbing 11 rebounds, and dishing out a team-high six assists.
“Willow and Allie were outstanding even though their shots weren’t falling early,” Giorgis said. “We can always count on them as leaders, and they stepped it up in the second half.”
The Red Foxes (8-1, 6-1 in the MAAC) shot 23-for-60 (38 percent) from the field and eight-for-25 from three. They made the only two free throws they attempted but made up for that by out-rebounding the Stags 40-30, exploiting a weakness in the zone. They managed to take care of the ball, finishing with 18 assists against 11 turnovers.
Katie Armstrong had a game-high 13 and was the only Stag in double-figures. MAAC Preseason Player of the Year Lou Lopez-Senechal struggled and finished with only nine points on three-for-16 shooting. Callie Cavanaugh added eight, including all six of her team’s points in the first quarter.
Fairfield (5-2, 4-1 in the MAAC) was the latest victim of Marist’s confounding defense. They limped to a 14-for-49 (28 percent) from the field and shot four-for-15 from beyond the arc.
Low-scoring games have been commonplace for Marist over the last few weeks, and tonight was not any different as the defenses dominated yet again.
The Red Foxes led 9-6 after Connecticut native Julianna Bonilla hit a corner three that proved to be the final scoring of the first quarter. Marist held Fairfield players not named Cavanaugh scoreless over the first ten minutes, not allowing many open looks for the more dangerous Stags like Lopez-Senechal and Armstrong.
The Red Foxes began to have more success against the zone and a Weimar jumper punctuated a quick 6-0 run that gave Marist a nine-point lead a minute-and-a-half into the second quarter. Armstrong became the second Fairfield player to enter the scoring column and ended a seven-minute scoring drought with a three to make it 15-9. Krick hit a three to answer, and the Red Foxes, through their zone offense, got some more easy scoring for Weimar to make it 22-11.
Marist could not tack on any scoring in the final 3:19 of the first half, and free throws from Lopez-Senechal coupled with a three from Eden Nibbelink made it 22-17 going into the halftime break.
Weimar had 10 points on four-for-five shooting at halftime. The other Red Foxes combined to go five-for-31 in the first 20 minutes. The Stags, however, fared even worse, going six-for-26 as a team.
After a 1-of-8 start in the first half, Best opened Marist’s second-half scoring with a three that made it 25-18. Krick continued her stellar play with a transition layup and a long two to beat the shot-clock, which gave the Red Foxes a 29-20 lead.
After Armstrong hit another three to cut it to 29-24, Marist countered with two great possessions that resulted in threes from Best and Kennedy and stretched the lead back to 11. Four straight from Armstrong made it 37-30 with under a minute left in the third, but after Zaria Demember-Shazer came up with a steal, Bonilla corralled a loose ball in the front court and converted a buzzer-beating layup for a 39-30 lead going into the fourth.
“Julie (Bonilla) works hard in practice,” Giorgis said. “She’s been toiling at the end of the bench but I put her in first as a message to the freshmen that they need to work harder. She’s great against the zone and showed it tonight.”
The Red Foxes continued to do a better job executing their zone offense, getting the ball into the high post, the weak point of any 2-3 zone. A mid-range jumper from Demember-Shazer stretched the lead to 45-33 with 6:54 left.
Marist will take the bus back to Poughkeepsie and go through the same travel itinerary for tomorrow’s game in the series, which is scheduled for 7 p.m.
Edited by Mackenzie Meaney
Photo by Gabby Ricciardi