Marist earned a hard-fought 63-55 victory over Siena in the quarterfinals of the MAAC Tournament in Atlantic City. The Red Foxes are now 19-0 in MAAC Tournament openers under Brian Giorgis.
“These kids never cease to amaze me,” Giorgis (fresh off his eighth MAAC Coach of the Year honor) said after the game. “It didn’t look good in the first quarter, but we made some adjustments, Sarah hit some big shots, and we got a lead.”
The Red Foxes were once again without newly-minted Co-Rookie of the Year Caitlin Weimar, who missed her second consecutive after injuring her knee against Saint Peter’s last week. Her status remains day-to-day ahead of the semi-finals on Friday.
After falling down by 11 in the first half, Marist used a 42-12 run during the middle quarters to seemingly run away with the game.
“We came into this season as underdogs, and even though we’re the one seed, we still have that mentality,” Duffell said. “I think we’ve proven a lot of people wrong so far this year, and we hope to keep doing it. We have an acronym C.A.R.E., which means we want to play with confidence, attitude, resilience, and energy, and I think we brought that to this game.”
When Marist built a 19-point lead in the late third quarter, there did not seem to be that much fight left in the Saints. The Red Foxes, though, saw a few double-digit leads turn into losses during the regular season, including last time out against Saint Peter’s.
For a few minutes late in the fourth quarter, it looked like Marist might let another big lead slip away.
“I was worried in the fourth quarter because I played some people a lot of minutes,” Giorgis said. “Their legs were tired, but Siena ended up running out of gas too since it was their second game.”
Senior Rayshel Brown hit a three to make it 58-48 with five minutes left, and Siena continued to creep closer as the Red Foxes remained stagnant on offense. The Saints drew to within 60-55 with 1:29 left, but that was the closest they would get.
Allie Best fluttered a pass to Duffell, who drew a foul and scored with 1:09 left. The lead went back up to seven. Though Marist struggled mightily from the free-throw line in the final minute, they got stops on defense to help them survive and advance.
Marist (16-3) shot 39 percent from the field and six-of-18 from beyond the arc. The Red Foxes finished with 17 assists against nine turnovers.
Sarah Barcello finished with a game-high 20 points on eight-of-18 shooting. Duffell turned in another double-double, matching 14 points with the same number of rebounds.
“We just want to take things day by day,” Added Barcello after the game. “Focusing on the opponent at hand and giving our all, knowing that there may not be a tomorrow is all we can do.”
Trinasia Kennedy added 10, and Best and freshman Zaria Demember-Shazer each chipped in with six.
Siena (4-9) shot 36 percent from the field after getting off to a blistering start. They outrebounded Marist 40-35 but gave the ball away 16 times.
Junior guard Margo Peterson led her team with 13 points in the defeat. The Red Foxes held graduate student Isis Young, the conference’s leading scorer, to 11 points on four-of-17 shooting.
“We had a tough time stopping (Young) early,” Giorgis continued. “We’re not used to people taking those kinds of deep threes against us. We made an adjustment, and I think she lost her legs a bit, but I have two great defensive players (Kennedy and Krick).”
The Saints came out shooting. A 10-0 run keyed by a three from Young and a duo of long balls from Peterson helped Siena take a 19-13 lead after ten minutes.
The Red Foxes’ offense foundered in the early minutes of the second quarter, and another Peterson triple stretched Siena’s lead to 24-13 with 8:15 left in the first half. Freshman Anabel Ellison hit just her third three of the season on the following possession to take the lid off the basket for Marist.
Barcello got going with a three that made it 26-19 and another that cut her team’s deficit to 28-26 with 3:47 left in the half. After a scorching start, it was Siena’s turn to go cold. The Saints struggled with turnovers and endured a four-minute scoring drought at the end of the half. A Duffell layup tied things at 28, and Barcello got into the paint and scored with six seconds left to cap a 17-6 run and give Marist a 32-30 advantage at the half.
The Red Foxes picked up right where they left off in the third quarter. Demember-Shazer ran the floor perfectly for an easy layup that made it 36-30, and Duffell added a three that stretched the score to 43-32 and forced a Siena timeout.
The Saints—perhaps spent from a hard-fought win over Niagara the day before—could not take advantage of the open looks they managed to find. Siena shot three-for-16 in the third quarter and had difficulties stopping Marist’s motion offense.
The Red Foxes won the third 23-8 and took a 55-38 advantage into the deciding quarter. After scoring 19 points in the first quarter, the Saints needed a full 20 minutes to equal that output.
It seemed like Marist was well on their way to an easy victory, but Siena made the Red Foxes sweat down the stretch.
The Red Foxes will play the winner of the Fairfield-Manhattan game on Friday, March 12 in a highly anticipated semi-final matchup. Tip-off is set for 11 a.m. in Atlantic City.
Edited by Mackenzie Meaney
Photo by Marist Athletics