The exits for Willow Duffell and Allie Best were not under the circumstances they had hoped for at the beginning of the night. Both seniors were on the bench before the buzzer sounded, and their team finished the regular season on the wrong side of a 58-51 defeat to Saint Peter’s.
“I think Coach Erin (Doughty) said it best in her postgame speech that the season is made up of three chapters,” Duffell said after the game. “There’s non-conference, conference, and the MAAC Tournament. This obviously isn’t the way we wanted to end our season, but we know the most important chapter is coming up.”
The loss broke Marist’s seven-game winning streak and ended the Red Foxes’ streak of 15 consecutive home wins. The Peacocks were the first visiting team to win in McCann since Rider on January 16, 2020.
Marist (15-3, 13-3 in the MAAC) held a 12-point lead early in the second half but could not hit shots in the clutch, going one-for their first-nine in the fourth quarter. Saint Peter’s uncharacteristically slowed the game down in the closing minutes, but they outrebounded the Red Foxes 13-7 in the deciding quarter and capitalized on the extra possessions.
“We couldn’t make shots down the stretch,” Marist Head Coach Brian Giorgis said. “It’s just one of those things. I tried to play some people quite a bit, and I did, and we were playing well, but when I tried to win the game we just didn’t have any legs at the end.”
With the ball and a 52-49 lead with under three minutes left, the Peacocks took the possession deep into the shot clock before Tyara McQueen banked home a deep three for her first field goal of the night. Saint Peter’s stole the subsequent inbounds pass, and Marist continued to miss in the clutch.
Ajia James sank a runner that proved to be the dagger, making it 57-49 with 1:18 left. The win elevated Saint Peter’s (11-14, 10-9 in the MAAC) to the three-seed in Atlantic City.
The Peacocks shot 23-for-60 from the field and decisively won the rebounding battle for the second straight evening, out rebounding the Red Foxes 41-34. They secured five crucial offensive rebounds in the fourth quarter.
Taiah Thornton led all scorers with 19 points on eight-for-21 shooting in 38 minutes of action. Binta Salawu finished with 13 points and eight rebounds, and Sky Castro chipped in 10 and eight.
Marist shot 19-for-49 from the field and once again struggled from the foul line, shooting just eight-for-16.
Sarah Barcello scored a team-high 13 for the Red Foxes. Zaria Demember-Shazer added 12 starting in place of Caitlin Weimar, who did not play after suffering a knee injury in last night’s game.
Duffell finished with 12 points and seven rebounds in her last game in McCann, and though Best failed to score, she did what she enjoys the most, distributing six assists.
“They haven’t only been important this season, but for the last four years,” Giorgis said of his seniors. “They’ve been incredible contributors to the program, and they’ve been two of the best leaders I’ve had in 44 years of coaching. They helped a young team win a MAAC regular-season championship, and they kept the kids focused and were part of a team that didn’t have a positive COVID test all year.”
“I couldn’t be more thankful that Willow was the one I came in with,” Best said. “We’ve spent the last four years by each other’s side, and when we’re not with each other, we’re always communicating. I wouldn’t have made it through the last four years without her.”
“I couldn’t have gotten through the last four years without Allie; no questions asked,” Duffell said. “We’ve been through so much the last four years, going back to freshman year up to this COVID year. We’ve gone through some crazy experiences in the last few years, and our friendship never faltered; we were always there for each other.”
After Thornton hit a three to give Saint Peter’s an 18-12 lead early in the second quarter, Marist began to find its footing on offense. Barcello hit a pair of threes to tie things at 18, and her fellow Chandler, Arizona native Kendall Krick drained a long ball to put the Red Foxes up 23-20 with 6:33 left in the first half.
Thornton kept her team in the game with 14 first-half points and hit a jumper to cut it to 25-24, but Duffell came up with a layup with under a minute left that helped Marist take a 32-26 lead into the break.
The Red Foxes opened the third quarter on an 8-2 with Barcello finishing a three-point play to put her team up 40-28 just under three minutes into the second half. Marist was able to run away from the Peacocks last night, but the visiting team stormed back into the game. Strong foul-shooting from Salawu helped Saint Peter’s creep back within a possession, and Thornton hit a jumper to tie the game at 42 with 2:31 left in the third. Two foul shots from Barcello gave the Red Foxes a 46-44 advantage with ten minutes left.
The Peacocks scored the first five points of the fourth quarter and held Marist scoreless for over three minutes to take a 49-46 lead. Krick tied things at 49 with a layup, but Jenna Clark had the answer on the other end with a three that made it 52-49 with 4:55 left in the game.
The third chapter of Marist’s season begins next Wednesday, March 10 in Atlantic City. The Red Foxes will take on the winner of the eight/nine-game which is yet to be determined. Tip-off is scheduled for noon.
Edited by Mackenzie Meaney