All season long, it’s been getting closer. Game by game, 40 minutes by 40 minutes. On Saturday afternoon, Brian Giorgis coached his 278th and final game at the McCann Center.
A crowd of 1,843 watched Marist women’s basketball lose its final home game of the season 74-56 to Niagara on Saturday afternoon.
Plenty of dignitaries made the trip to Poughkeepsie to pay tribute to the legendary Marist coach. Outgoing MAAC Commissioner Rich Ensor was there, as were plenty of alumni from the women’s basketball program, and members of the Giorgis family.
A pre-game ceremony was held with his family where the school unveiled a banner commemorating his “460 +” wins.
There were several honorees throughout the game, and after the final buzzer sounded, Giorgis addressed a still healthy crowd despite the lopsided margin. He thanked his players, the fans, the Marist band, and the cheer and dance teams.
It was an emotional afternoon on all fronts, as Giorgis faced off against Jada Pierce, a former assistant who he specifically requested to play for the occasion.
Like most games with the Purple Eagles, there was plenty of pace with some rapid exchanges of possession. Marist turned the ball over 21 times, an improvement from 34 in the first contest between the teams.
While the Red Foxes gave the ball away fewer times, they were still -12 on the turnover margin. The Purple Eagles fired 31 more shots than Marist and easily controlled the points off turnovers statistic, winning that battle 28-4.
Niagara (15-11, 14-4 in the MAAC) also controlled the paint, outscoring the Red Foxes 50-24. Sydney Faulcon came off the bench to help the Purple Eagles establish control down low. She finished the game with 11 points.
Aaliyah Parker had a team-high 13 for the Purple Eagles.
The Red Foxes won the first game in Buffalo because it shot well when it didn’t turn the ball over. It was a different story on Saturday as Marist shot 40 percent from the field and 2-for-12 from three.
Kiara Fisher led the way with 16 points and Zaria Shazer added 14.
While Marist struggled to hold onto the rock early, Shazer kept her team right in it with a layup that tied the game at 17 early in the second quarter and got her up to 10 points for the game.
But the Purple Eagles distanced themselves after Shazer picked up her second foul of the first half. An easy steal and layup from Ary Hicks capped a quick 6-0 run and gave the visitors a 27-19 lead with 3:53 left in the half.
Niagara rotated players in and out at a frenetic pace, with eight players getting on the score sheet in the opening 20 minutes, but the Red Foxes, with less balance and less depth, managed to stick around. Catie Cunningham, inserted into the starting lineup over Sam Bailey, swished a jumper to make it a 33-27 deficit at halftime.
The Syracuse native was solid in her starting role, finishing with eight points in 29 minutes.
Though Shazer returned to the lineup to begin the second half, the best the Red Foxes could do was trade baskets with the Purple Eagles. Eventually, the home team began to fade as Brooklyn Jones made a layup after a particularly frantic sequence to stretch Niagara’s lead up to 45-33 with 4:31 left in the third.
Lore Porter nailed a three to extend the lead up to 50-34 and the Purple Eagles would take a 57-41 lead into the fourth thanks to a solid shift from Faulcon.
While some hoped Marist could find some magic for its head coach, the Red Foxes didn’t have a comeback in them. The Red Foxes could only get close as 14 in the final stanza.
After beating Quinnipiac and Marist on the road, the trip back to Western New York will feel a lot shorter for Pierce’s squad.
Marist’s final week of conference play begins with a trip to league-leading Iona on Thursday for an early evening matchup. Tip-off is scheduled for 4:30 p.m.
Edited by Ricardo Martinez
Photo from Luke Sassa