The Marist men’s basketball team could not have asked for a better start to begin the 2022-23 season.
On a night where with much uncertainty about the current complexion of the program, the newcomers stepped in a big way. Marist beat the American Eagles 73-59, earning their first win of the season on opening night.
“I think we had great spirit. I think we had great togetherness,” Head coach John Dunne said. There were certainly some plays the guys wish they could have had back, but we’ll get better at it.”
The game began at a quick pace, one that gave both teams plenty of offensive possessions to work with. Through seven plus minutes of action, most of the Marist offense was being run through 6-foot-11 center Patrick Gardner. His ability to shoot from the outside while separating players off the dribble made things difficult for the American defense. Still, at the U12 media timeout, the Eagles had a 16-13 lead.
Kam Farris began to find his feet around the nine-minute mark in the first half. The Robert Morris transfer missed his first shot on a drive to the basket, but his next two looks went down from beyond the three-point line. His second make gave the Red Foxes a 24-23 lead with just over eight minutes left in the first.
The rest of the half was heavy back-and-forth action, as the largest lead was five following a made layup from American center Jermaine Ballisager Webb at the 01:51 mark. As soon as it seemed like the Eagles would stretch the lead, the Red Foxes came back with consecutive baskets.
With heavier responsibilities this year starting for the Red Foxes, guard Javon Cooley stepped up with multiple important plays on the night. With just seconds remaining in the first half, American forward Johnny O’Neil attacked the rim. It looked as if he was going to get an easy basket at the rim, until Cooley stepped in to take charge. The Marist forward got in legal position, forcing the turnover and negating the American basket.
“Its really about where I come from in Chicago,” said Cooley. “We preach defense and playing with toughness, which is a part of my game that I’ve always had with me. Thankfully, I had the opportunity to step in and take the charge.”
There were nine lead changes in the first half, but American went into the half with a slight 39-38 lead. Farris led all scorers with 11 points on 4-for-6 shooting at the break.
The second half began at a similar pace to the first. Both teams looked to get on in transition whenever the opportunity presented itself. Anytime Marist regained the lead, the Eagles would respond with a basket of their own.
In the first eleven minutes of the second half, the game was tied on six different occasions. Two made free throws from American Guard Geoff Sprouse tied the game at 63-63 with 05:39 left in the contest. That would be the final moment where both teams were in a deadlock.
With just over four minutes left in the game, Marist trailed 66-65. Sophomore guard Noah Harris got a steal, helping the Red Foxes get out and run on break. He was able to find Cooley in right corner, who hit nothing but net on a three-pointer to give his team a two-point lead. From that point on, Marist led for the rest of the night.
Gardner had a reverse layup off the bounce to give Marist a four-point lead with just over a minute left. American would get the lead down to as low as three in the remaining seconds, but the Red Foxes were able to hold on for a 73-69 victory.
Kam Farris had 20 points on 7-for-10 shooting from the field and 5-for-5 shooting from three: all in his Marist debut. He was able to take advantage of the layout of America’s defense, especially when they gave him space on the perimeter.
“He’s one of our top five most talented guys and he is coming off the bench,” said Dunne. “I explained to him that I would like to get a spark off the bench. [Kam] said I just want to win and it’s not about starting or not starting. When you have those kind of selfless attitudes, it gives you an opportunity to have a successful season.”
While Farris was automatic from beyond the arc,Gardner stood out in his first game for the Red Foxes, adding 19 points on an efficient 9-for-16 shooting from the field and six rebounds. The 6’11 transfer will be a key on both sides of the ball for the Red Foxes
“He’s an all-league player; where he fits probably will have to do with how much we win. He had 19 points and he was 0-for-4 from three and he’s a really good three-point shooter,” coach Dunne said about Gardner’s debut.
Marist returns to action on Saturday, Nov. 12th against the Binghamton Bearcats. The game is scheduled to tip-off at 7 p.m. at McCann Arena.