ATLANTIC CITY, N.J.– It was over in 12 tidy hours. Both Marist basketball teams flamed out of the first round of the MAAC Tournament in Atlantic City on Tuesday.
The Marist women lost a terrible 49-29 game to seventh-seeded Saint Peter’s in the second game of the day and the men didn’t fare any better, falling to last-place Quinnipiac 77-52 minutes before the clock struck midnight, a fitting metaphor for the day.
The teams combined to score 81 points (the Rider men scored 79 on Tuesday), lose by 45, and shoot 3-for-39 from the 3-point line.
The MAAC Tournament is probably the closest I’ll ever get to the big time. As a student journalist, I get to rub noses with a bunch of other like-minded people who enjoy and know the game of basketball much more than I ever will.
There are journalists who have covered big market teams, coaches (yeah, I’m talking about Pitino) who have tried their trade at the highest level and won NCAA Championships. And here I was, representing this beautiful little publication from tiny Marist College. It felt wrong to have it end so abruptly.
I’ve slandered New Jersey for as long as I’ve known it’s a state. I mean how lazy can you be to let someone else pump your own gas? My dad can vouch that I’ve been doing that since I was eight (maybe he belongs in New Jersey).
Last year’s event was my first time stepping foot in the tremendously great state of New Jersey and the greasy paradise that is Atlantic City. In early 2021, COVID was still running rampant and it took its toll on the MAAC Tournament. The media were relegated to the upper levels of the arena and the press conferences were over Zoom.
Even though we were in person again, there was still a feeling that we were many miles away from the action. I only have two distinct memories from last year. The first was getting to see the women win it all and the celebration that followed. The second was the late-night (or early morning) loss the men suffered to Niagara.
I remember walking out of Boardwalk Hall with Dave Connelly, Center Field’s then-editor-in-chief and longtime men’s hoops beat writer. I saw a man who was dejected, at a complete loss. The men got down big, came back, but blew a chance to win in the final seconds.
Dave’s (basketball) experience and Marist’s were the same: four years of misery.
I hoped this year would be different.
Those thoughts were on my mind as I made the three-hour drive down to Atlantic City from Poughkeepsie. I missed traffic but hit a torrential rainstorm that necessitated plenty of white knuckle driving. Still, I made it to my destination, a three-star hotel that will not be named, safely.
I was still trying to shake the cobwebs from my eyes after a restless night in a hotel bed when the women took the floor around 11:45 a.m. to face Saint Peter’s. Two hours later, they only had 29 points on the board and suffered the ignominy of losing by 20 even though they held their opponent under 50 points.
In my heart of hearts, I knew that they had lost that game once I saw Trinasia Kennedy in street clothes. She suffered a concussion after a hard fall against Manhattan and was there only to support her teammates.
With her, Marist was a team with more than a few offensive flaws. Without her, well, they scored 29 points and shot 1-of-22 from three.
You couldn’t help but feel for the team. They made the best of a bad situation for as long as they could, but it simply was not good enough to beat many teams.
Kendall Krick’s determination to hold back tears during the press conference said more than I ever could. But simply put, it was a sad end to a fine career. Next year should bring renewed optimism and a full roster for Brian Giorgis’s last dance.
So, I meandered back to the hotel, thinking about the inevitability of the Marist women losing. There was still hope for the men against last-place Quinnipiac.
I was later joined by Christian De Block, our men’s basketball beat writer. As we walked back to Boardwalk Hall, I think we both felt a sense of trepidation, something like “man, I hope we don’t lose tonight.” Of course, we knew that recent history was very much against the Red Foxes in the MAAC Tournament.
I went to take pictures while Christian covered the game. From the early minutes, I could tell that it was going to be anything but easy. Marist looked nervous while Quinnipiac played loose and drained seven threes in the first half. Still, the Red Foxes were only down six. Plenty of time for a comeback.
When a team gets thoroughly outplayed but is still in the game at the half, one of two things happen. Either the team gets its act together and wins or loses handily. Marist took the latter option.
Quinnipiac continued to rain down shots while the Red Foxes couldn’t hit the ocean from the boardwalk. It wasn’t even close. Christian and I were each in shock. A loss wouldn’t have been a surprise but to go down 77-52 after such a promising late-season run was a tough pill to swallow.
I really do feel for players like Matt Herasme and Jordan Jones. They’ve given so much time and energy to the program, but their careers will likely be judged on a few hours of basketball (the postseason games they lost). It’s not up to me to determine whether it’s fair or unfair, but it is the truth.
With many seniors leaving and the uncertainty of the transfer portal, Marist finds itself in a tenuous position heading into the offseason. What happens in the spring and summer will determine what next season looks like for the Red Foxes. The pressure on Dunne to find postseason success will be cranked to another level.
The walk back with Christian was eerily similar to one I had with Dave a year prior. We were both at a loss and didn’t know what to say. I don’t like Atlantic City but I didn’t want to leave either.
As my head hit the pillow early Wednesday morning, these were the lyrics in my head.
“Well, everything dies, baby, that’s a fact
But maybe everything that dies some day comes back
Put your makeup on, fix your hair up pretty
And meet me tonight in Atlantic City”
Edited by Bridget Reilly and Mackenzie Meaney
Photo by Annabel Banks