It didn’t take long for Marist’s new-look roster to encounter their first heart-stopping game of the season. The Red Foxes surprised just about everybody in a 52-50 win at Drexel on Tuesday night.
Trinasia Kennedy and Sarah Barcello both missed the game, as they continue to recover from off-season surgeries. Without their two returning top-scorers from last season, the Red Foxes trotted out a lineup that only had a combined nine starts between five players.
“That was as good as a win as I’ve had in my 20 years,” Marist head coach Brian Giorgis said. “People don’t realize how good Drexel was, coming into the game with all their returning starters and the Bucknell transfer. We beat a very good team.”
For a team coming into the game with plenty of unknowns, they held their own down the stretch of a nail-biting finish.
After Drexel tied the game at 50 with two free throws from Bucknell transfer Tessa Brugler, Marist took a timeout with 20 seconds left.
Out of the timeout, Syracuse transfer Kiara Fisher drove into Drexel’s 2-3 zone and left it for her high school teammate Zaria Demember-Shazer, who calmly laid it in with 11 seconds left.
“We wanted (Fisher) to create a play,” Giorgis said. “She went a little early, but she made a great pass to Zaria, and Zaria finished.”
Without any timeouts left, the Dragons pushed the ball down the floor and got two point-blank looks at sending the game to overtime. Brugler missed a layup with four seconds left, got her own rebound, and missed again. Marist regained possession on a held ball and inbounded to secure their first victory.
For now, Marist proved that it could compete and win against an NCAA Tournament-caliber team without any of its starters from last year’s team on the court.
The depleted Red Foxes battled and scrapped against a Drexel team that brought back most of its roster from an NCAA Tournament run last season. Marist was outsized but played a terrific defensive game, holding the Dragons to a 34 percent shooting effort and forcing 14 turnovers.
Junior Julianna Bonilla came off the bench to deliver a career-high and game-high 16 points on 5-for-10 shooting, including four made threes. She scored 13 of those points in the second half and came up with clutch shot after clutch shot when her team needed it the most.
“Nobody has worked as hard she has except maybe Kendall Krick,” Giorgis said. “She’s worked really hard on her shooting and gave us a nice lift off the bench.”
Demember-Shazer had to fight against Drexel’s bigs all night long, but secured her first career double-double with 11 points and 10 rebounds in 36 minutes.
Fisher battled early foul trouble and finished with 11 points in 25 minutes.
Junior Sam Bailey started at the five and tied a career-high with seven points. Senior Kendall Krick only finished with three points but contributed in ways that the stat sheet can’t quite capture.
Marist finished 17-of-44 from the field and 6-of-15 from three-point range. They shot 12-of-17 from the foul line, including a 7-for-10 effort in the fourth quarter.
Brugler had a double-double with 12 points and 14 rebounds. Hannah Nihill led the Dragons with 14 points but committed a costly technical foul at the end of the first half that gifted the Red Foxes with two crucial points.
The Red Foxes held a 27-22 lead at the half but struggled to penetrate Drexel’s 2-3 zone early in the third quarter, and the Dragons drew to within 30-29. But Marist’s defense swarmed and scrapped, holding their opponent scoreless for nearly the last six minutes of the third.
The Red Foxes only mustered two field goals during the drought, but they were both big ones. Bonilla drained two threes off drive-and-kicks to stretch the lead to 36-29 heading into the final ten minutes.
Bonilla came through again, using a pump fake to create some space and drain a long two to make it 44-39 with 4:22 left in the game.
Senior Kendall Krick grabbed an offensive rebound off a Bonilla and eventually found her deadeye teammate, who was open again. She didn’t miss this time. The triple gave Marist a 47-41 lead, but Nihill countered with a three for the Dragons to make it a three-point game with under three minutes left.
The Red Foxes will play their first home game of the season against American on Friday night. Former Marist associate head coach Megan Gebbia returns to McCann to take on her coaching protegee Giorgis. The game will tip at 7 p.m.
Edited by Connor Kurpat
Photo from Marist Athletics