Marist Suffers Tough Conference Loss to Niagara on Senior Night

    Saturday, Feb, 24 was the final regular season game for the Marist Women’s Basketball team. Despite already being set with the second seed in the MAAC tournament next week, Marist was looking to finish strong on its senior night at the McCann Arena. However, the 12-17 Niagara Purple Eagles came in and topped the Red Foxes 68-61.

Coach Brian Giorges described the loss as a, “tough way to finish the season,” but added, “we are 17-5 in our last 22 games, we can’t forget that. So we have to get back to work on Monday and get ready for Friday.”

Marist honored their lone senior on the team, forward Kendall Baab, with a pregame ceremony. Giorges gave Baab her second start of the season. She quickly rewarded his decision by scoring the first basket for the Red Foxes with a lay-in from a Grace Vander Weide pass. Baab also had the task of guarding Niagara’s physical forward Victoria Rampado, who averages 20.8 points per game. When asked if it was difficult for her to transition from the emotional ceremony to the game Baab said, “I thought it was going to be way worse, I knew I was going to cry, I’m just emotional, (but) it kind of pumped me up too. I think it changed into positive energy, I wanted to play for the crowd, my family, and the team.”

The story of the first quarter were the three-pointers made by both teams. Rebekah Hand went 2 for 3 in the first from behind the three-point line for Marist. Niagara’s 5 foot point guard Maggie McIntyre, also hit two three pointers in the first. Marist fell behind early 21-14 at the end of the first.

The second quarter started with Allie Best hit an open three for Marist to make the score 21-17. However, the Red Foxes struggled to beat Niagara’s press in the second quarter. After Niagara’s press forced Marist to turn the ball over on four consecutive possessions, Kharysma Bryant hit a three to bring Niagara’s lead to 32-19 with 4:24 left in the half. Overall in the first half Marist had 13 turnovers, compared to the 13.7 per game they average this season. Niagara played the Red Foxes with a tough press and match-up zone that aggressively double teamed the ball handler. The aggressive defense forced a lot of errors for the Foxes such as sloppy passes and traveling calls. Simply put Coach Giorges said that his team needs to “play better and handle the ball better.”  Alana Gilmer went on a scoring run at the end of the second quarter that helped keep the Red Foxes competitive. Gilmer finished with 10 points and six rebounds in the half. Niagara led at halftime 36 to 28.

The second half was more of the same, as Marist continued to struggle to answer Niagara’s ball pressure. Willow Duffell started off the half strong scoring six points in the first three minutes of the quarter. However, Niagara would continue to respond offensively, never letting Marist cut the lead to less than four points for the remainder of the game.

Marist had a difficult time stopping Rampado, who Giorges said “could arguably be the best player in the MAAC.” She finished the game with 19 points and 10 rebounds, including 9 points in the second half. Marist cut the lead to 59-55 with 2:33 in the fourth quarter. Niagara’s Jai Moore finished off the Red Foxes hopes of a comeback with a corner jumper with 49 seconds left, making the lead 63-55.

With the final loss, Marist finishes the season 18-12 and 14-4 in MAAC play. Niagara improved their record to 12-17 overall with a 9-9 MAAC record.

    Reflecting on her four years with Marist basketball, Baab believes that this team stands out from her other seasons. “I can say a lot about this team. They are great people and the hardest workers I know.” “I know they are going to work hard in the tournament.”

Marist’s next game will be Quarterfinals round of the MAAC in Albany, on Friday at 3:30.

David SalamoneComment