Marist saw their chances of sweeping Fairfield end in heartbreak, blowing a large lead and dropping a 61-58 thriller to the Stags at Alumni Hall on Saturday night.
A win would have meant the best start for the program since the 2008-09 season. Now, they are back in second place in the MAAC as Fairfield is one game ahead in the loss column.
“Give them credit; they dug down deeper and took advantage of our turnovers down the stretch,” Marist Head Coach Brian Giorgis said after the game. “We played good defense, but our offense let us down, and they finished on a big run.”
Marist had its 15-point second-half lead whittled down to one at 57-56 after Lou Lopez- Senechal grabbed an offensive rebound and scored off a missed free throw with under 90 seconds left. Trinasia Kennedy, amid a career game, turned it over on the subsequent Marist possession, and Lopez-Senechal hit two free throws on the other end to give Fairfield a 58-57 lead (their first since the early second quarter) with 49 seconds left.
Kennedy drew a foul on a drive to the basket with 33 seconds left but could only manage to make one of the two freebies, tying it at 58.
The Stags could not hold for the last shot, but they could take the clock down to about 2 seconds. With under 10 seconds left, Lopez-Senechal got the ball and put up a mid-range jumper that looked sure to miss. Only, it did not. The ball clanked off the back iron and fell softly through, giving Fairfield a 60-58 edge with 2.8 seconds left.
Giorgis called timeout to advance the ball into the frontcourt. Kennedy, the inbounder, looking to get the ball to Caitlin Weimar in the post, committed the most costly turnover in a game where Marist gave the ball away 18 times.
“We finished the gauntlet 4-2, but we know we should be 6-0,” Giorgis said. “We’ve made some mistakes at the end of those games that cost us dearly.”
The Red Foxes ended the game on a nearly seven-minute field goal drought.
In the loss, Kennedy blew away her previous career-high of 14 with 26 points, including five made threes. She shot seven-for-14 overall and seven-for-10 from the foul line but missed two in the fourth quarter.
“We wasted a tremendous game from Trinasia Kennedy,” Continued Giorgis. “Her shooting carried for a lot of the game, but we just couldn’t do anything on offense late.”
Allie Best was the only other Red Fox in double figures with 11. Caitlin Weimar and Willow Duffell had seven and six points respectively and found their roles from last night diminished, thanks in part to Fairfield’s switching defenses.
Marist (8-2) shot 19-for-47 (40 percent) from and a very solid eight-for-17 from three-point range. They got to the foul line more often than they had in previous games, finishing 12-for-16 from the charity stripe. The Red Foxes won the rebounding battle 34-28, but Fairfield managed to score 13 second-chance points to Marist’s nine.
“The biggest thing was second-chance opportunities, especially when Lopez-Senechal got that put back off the free throw. We needed to do a better job on the glass.”
Lopez-Senechal led the Stags with 16 points, including 11 in the final 10 minutes. She shot six-for-18, but like all the best players, she stepped up when it mattered most. Katie Armstrong and Callie Cavanaugh each added 10 in the victory.
Fairfield (6-2) shot 25-for-55 (46 percent) on the night.
The Red Foxes picked up right where they left off from last night’s win in the early minutes. They picked Fairfield’s 2-3 zone apart, executing with clinical precision. Kennedy hit a trio of early threes that helped put Marist up 15-7 five minutes in.
The Stags began to play more man-to-man defense, which confounded the Red Foxes into a series of turnovers. Fairfield’s Janelle Brown hit a jumper to tie the game at 17 after ten minutes.
An Andrea Hernangomez layup capped gave the Stags a 21-17 early in the second and capped a 14-2 run. Marist righted the ship behind more scoring from the sophomore from Binghamton. Kennedy hit another triple to tie things at 22, and her backcourt-mate Best swished a one from beyond the arc to give the Red Foxes a 30-26 advantage. The steady senior added another long-range shot just before the halftime buzzer, making it 37-30 at the halftime break.
Marist’s starting guards combined for 24 first-half points and shot six-for-nine from behind the three-point line.
Kennedy continued her onslaught, banking in a deep three on the first possession of the half to stretch the lead to 10. In the first half Fairfield played zone on makes and man on misses. In the second half, the Stags came out in man-to-man. The Red Foxes were not deterred, and more scoring from Kennedy and contributions from Kendall Krick and Weimar made it 47-32 with three-and-a-half minutes left in the third.
Fairfield began their comeback with an 8-0 run, keyed by threes from Rachel Hakes and Janelle Brown. With the lead cut to seven and the Stags back in zone, Best had the answer and drained a three to give Marist a 50-40 advantage with ten minutes left.
Armstrong hit a three to cut the Red Foxes’ lead down to 52-47 with 7:21 left, but Fairfield reverted to playing zone after a make, and Marist executed a flawless possession, ending with a Krick jumper that got it back to a seven-point game. It would be the Red Foxes’ last field goal of the game.
The Stags just kept coming, playing great defense, and cut it to 55-52 with 3:30 left after Lopez-Senechal drained a mid-range jumper, which marked the beginning of her late-game takeover.
The Red Foxes look to bounce back from the loss on Friday, January 22 when they take the trip up to Niagara University. Tip off is set for 4 p.m.
Edited by Mackenzie Meaney
Photo by Mike Cahill