On Saturday afternoon, hours before the calendar turned to 2023, there was still some basketball left to be played as Marist women’s basketball dropped its MAAC home-opener to Iona (7-5) at the McCann Center to close out a frustrating year in Poughkeepsie.
The final margin indicates a blowout, but the game was a tale of two halves. The Gaels obliterated the Red Foxes in the last 20 minutes, closing the game on a 51-24 run after Marist opened up a six-point lead early in the second half.
Iona engineered its huge turnaround after putting up 23 first-half points to trail by one at the break. The Gaels capitalized off several second-half turnovers from Marist and clinically picked apart the Red Foxes in the half-court.
Iona turned a 24-23 halftime deficit into a 50-42 lead after the third quarter. The Gaels continued to push their advantage as fifth-year star point guard Juana Camilion starred and Iona stretched its lead to 67-48 with four minutes left in the game.
Camilion was the best player on the court and finished with a game-high 22 points on 9-for-15 shooting in 34 minutes of action. Ketsia Athias added 14 in the victory and Thoranna Hodge-Carr scored 12 to go along with five steals.
The Gaels seemingly couldn’t miss in the second half, shooting 23-for-33 (70 percent) from the floor, 5-for-7 from three, and nabbing eight steals from their opponents, many of which led to easy baskets.
For its part, Marist (5-7, 1-2 in the MAAC) shot 43 percent from the floor and 55 percent in the second half. The problem was that costly turnovers held the Red Foxes back, as they gave the ball away 18 times compared to just six for the Gaels.
Kiara Fisher had a team-high 20 for Marist with all six of her made field goals coming on three-pointers. Zaria Shazer added 19 points and was the only other Marist player in double figures.
Iona had a stunning edge in the points off turnovers, routing Marist 30-1 in that department. Marist did finally win the rebounding battle in a game (32-25) but it was a hollow victory in a lopsided defeat.
Both teams got off to slow starts on the offensive end. Fisher nailed a shot-clock beating three to put the Red Foxes up 22-17 with under four minutes left in the second quarter but the Red Foxes could only grind out two more points in the half and were lucky to go into the locker room with a 24-23 lead.
Marist found a groove coming out of the break, using a 7-2 run punctuated by another three from Fisher to extend the lead to 31-25 early in the third. The Gaels had the response as Marist began to struggle to secure defensive rebounds. A second-chance three from Judith Gomez capped a 7-0 run and put Iona up 32-31 with five minutes left in the third,
Two sloppy turnovers from Fisher and Julianna Bonilla led to a pair of easy layups for the visitors, who extended their lead to 38-33 and forced a Marist timeout. On the next possession, the result was the same, as Gomez hit a jumper off yet another Red Foxes’ giveaway, At that point in the game, Iona held a 21-0 advantage in points off turnovers over their hosts.
The Gaels built their lead up to 45-36 off an easy layup from an out-of-bounds play with 80 seconds to play in the quarter. Fisher responded with two more threes to cut the deficit to 47-42, but Iona’s all-MAAC stalwart Camilion had the answer with a corner three to beat the third-quarter buzzer, putting her team up 50-42 heading into the final period.
Marist missed a couple of opportunities to cut into the lead early in the fourth, and Iona’s Kate Mager, the second-best long-range shooter in the conference, made the Red Foxes pay with a triple that put the Gaels on top 55-44 with 8:19 left.
Iona continued to build the lead without much resistance from the Red Foxes. With the game decided in the final minutes, both coaches emptied their benches, one had the luxury of doing so, the other, more out of exasperation.
2022 was a trying year for Marist. The wins didn’t come at the usual rate, several players entered the transfer portal after last season, and long-tenured head coach Brian Giorgis announced his retirement following this season.
The Red Foxes closed the calendar year with a 10-21 record and Marist’s first game of 2023 will see it host Manhattan on Thursday at 7 p.m. The Jaspers were picked to finish second in the MAAC preseason poll.
Edited by Ricardo Martinez
Photo from Marist Athletics