Not getting to see Marist and Rider face off for a third time last season was one of the biggest disappointments of their premature ending. Though the teams both look much different, the intensity remained the same as the Red Foxes eked out a 47-46 victory over the Broncs on Sunday afternoon in McCann.
“Well, we obviously had to gut this one out,” Marist Head Coach Brian Giorgis said after the game. “People say we keep giving them heart attacks, but as long as we win, I don’t care if it’s by one or 20. Rider did a great job today, especially on the defensive end, but we were able to persevere.”
Trailing 44-43 with just over three minutes left, Marist needed a spark. They got one when Willow Duffell stole a pass and got the ball to Allie Best, who rifled the ball to Kendall Krick for a transition layup that put the Red Foxes back in the lead.
Both teams held on defense for the next two minutes, but Caitlin Weimar, who struggled throughout the game, came through in the clutch and hit a jumper to extend the lead to 47-44 with just over a minute left. It would not be the last time she stepped up.
Rider’s Mikayla Firebaugh made it 47-46 after hitting two free throws with just under 50 seconds left. Marist had chances to extend their lead, but could not convert, first failing to get the ball inbounds and then missing a layup after forcing a tie-up on the other end. Fittingly, the defense had to win the game.
And win the game it did. Rider got the ball with 30 seconds left and the option to hold for the final shot if they wished. Maya Hyacienth took the first go-ahead try for the Broncs, driving in with 20 seconds left, only to be rebuffed by Weimar.
Rider retained possession, and this time they chose to take the clock down. Daija Moses took the final shot, but Weimar was there yet again, going straight up and knocking the ball safely away into Krick’s arms.
“Those final three stops defensively just kind of described us as a team,” Senior forward Willow Duffell said. “Caitlin made some huge stops down the stretch, so a lot of credit goes to her.”
Marist (11-2, 9-2 in the MAAC) struggled to an 18-for-57 (32 percent) mark from the field and only shot two-for-15 from beyond the arc. The Red Foxes finished with a season-low 11 assists against 12 turnovers (11 in the first half).
“You don’t know (if the pause had any impact on Marist’s offense),” Giorgis said. “We ran stuff, and we got some looks. Were we rusty? Probably, but you’ve got to credit Rider’s defense.”
Duffell was the only Marist player in double-figures, with a game-high 15 points, adding six rebounds and five steals. Best was the next leading Red Fox scorer with eight points. In her first game since January 9, Sarah Barcello finished with six.
“It was great to have Sarah back today,” Continued Giorgis. “She’s not the quickest or the fastest on defense, but she always knows where to be. We’ll see how she’s feeling after playing 27 minutes today.”
Though Weimar only had four points on two-of-nine shooting, she made her most important contributions on defense, finishing with four blocks.
Rider (5-15, 4-11 in the MAAC) had won three in a row coming into Sunday afternoon. They shot 17-for-45 (38 percent) from the floor and three-for-17 from long range. The Broncs outrebounded Marist 35-34 but finished with 19 giveaways.
Mikayla Firebaugh and Daija Moses paced Rider with 13 points apiece.
The Red Foxes got off to a flying start, scoring the first nine points of the game and holding Rider scoreless for the first six minutes. Then, it was Marist’s turn to stop making shots, and the Broncs scored the final eight points of the quarter, with a Firebaugh layup making it a one-point game.
A three from Firebaugh and a layup from Moses made it 13 consecutive points for the visiting team. Barcello hit her first shot since the Manhattan series, breaking a nearly eight-minute Red Foxes scoring drought. Neither team could muster more than one field goal apiece over the last seven minutes of the half.
Despite not scoring for the final 5:13 of the half, Rider took a 15-14 lead into the locker room.
After starting four-for-six from the field, Marist only managed to make two of their next 22 shots, and could not secure a make from beyond the arc before the halftime buzzer sounded. The motion offense grounded to a halt and what open shots they did get simply were not falling.
In past games when the offense struggled, the remedy was a steady dose of paint touches. Today was not any different. Duffell scored the first six points of the second half (nine in a row going back to the first 20 minutes), and Marist regained the lead at 20-15. Best hit her team’s first three of the game after the Broncs showed a 2-3 zone to restore the lead to five with 5:37 left in the third.
Rider was not going to fall away easily. Moses hit a three to break into double-figures for the game and cut the deficit to 27-26, and Firebaugh converted a three-point play to tie things at 30.
Duffell scored her ninth and 10th points of the quarter from the foul line, and the Red Foxes took a slim 33-32 advantage into the final ten minutes.
The game seesawed back and forth in the early minutes of the final quarter. The Broncs charged ahead, challenging the Red Foxes inside. Victoria Toomey scored on a hook shot over Duffell to help Rider regain the lead. Then, it was Raphaela Touissant’s turn, making two shots in a row, including another one over Duffell’s outstretched arms, to make it 40-37 with 7:04 left.
The two teams will play each other again tomorrow, February 8 at McCann Arena. Tip off is set for 5 p.m.
Edited by Mackenzie Meaney
Photo by Mike Cahill