Stags Defeat MAAC Champs Marist
Tuesday night was a night of redemption. After a season in which the Stags struggled for results, for 40 minutes they played nearly perfectly. Everything finally clicked. The young team grew up. And the Stags became the first MAAC team to win back-to-back games at the McCann Arena in over a decade, upsetting nine-time defending MAAC Champions Marist 56-55.
“This was a much needed win,” Head Coach Joe Frager said. “I think it’s an atmosphere our players really enjoy. I think it boils down to the kids realize in this kind of atmosphere if you’re not together and not cohesive the game can really unravel in a heartbeat.”
Fairfield’s (3-10, 2-2 MAAC) Samantha Cooper, who had been struggling with just seven points in her last three games, hit the biggest shot of her life to give the Stags a 56-55 advantage. Cooper hit the jumper, with just three seconds remaining, the third-straight MAAC game the Stags had a chance to win in the final seconds.
“Cooper is a player who is still struggling from her two knee surgeries,” Coach Frager said, “She keeps telling me she’s fine. Her parents are down from Canada and it’s a moment of a lifetime to hit a shot like that.”
Cooper finished with a team-high 13 points.
A late foul call with 33.8 seconds to play, gave Marist (7-6, 3-1 MAAC) a 1-and-1 opportunity and Sydney Coffey converted both opportunities to give Marist a 53-52 advantage late.That set the stage for the drama. Felicia DaCruz sunk a wide-open jumper on the right elbow to give the Stags a 54-53 lead with 15.1 seconds to go. DaCruz would finish with four points, for the fourth-straight game.
The Stags got off to a blazing start, scoring 10 of the first 16 points of the game. Reigning MAAC and ECAC Rookie of the Week, Casey Smith scored the first six points for the Stags, who shot 56 percent from the floor in the first five minutes.
Fairfield also took two offensive charges from Coffey, which forced her to the bench early with foul trouble. In total, the Red Foxes were whistled for three offensive fouls in the opening half.
Fairfield took full advantage.
The Stags who were dominated on the boards in their last game against Niagara, grabbed 19 rebounds in the first half, including 11 in the first eight minutes. The 19 rebounds were four fewer than the Stags had all of last game (23).
Fairfield would take their largest lead in the game when Felicia DaCruz swished a jumper to make the score 16-7 with 12:52 left in the first half. Helena Orts would also keep the lead at nine with back-to-back jumpers, to put the Stags lead at 20-11.
Defensively, the Stags held arguably the best shooting team in the conference to an 1-9 clip in the opening 20 minutes. Marist would not get their first long range shot until the 1:41 mark in the opening stanza. Fairfield also forced six turnovers against the team who led the league in that category.
Vanderbilt transfer Tori Jarosz kept the Red Foxes in the game early on, scoring 11 of the first 17 points for the home team. Sharpshooter Madeline Blais misfired on her first three shots from behind the arc. Blais came into the contest as a 45 percent career 3-point shooter.
The Stags were balanced. Kelsey Carey, who had her first career start and Smith both had six points, Samantha Cooper led the Stags with eight points in the first stanza. Cooper also recorded her 100th career point during the run. Cooper also had six boards in the first frame.
Cooper became the first Stag this year to record a double-double with 13 points and 10 rebounds. Carey was the Stags second leading scorer with 12 points in the upset. Vanderbilt transfer Tori Jarosz tallied a game-high 20 points and shot 9-14 from the floor in the game to lead the Red Foxes, who snapped their six-game winning streak.
The Stags will now head back home to host their first annual School Day Game against Saint Peter’s, Friday at 11am.
“You hope it’s something we can build on,” Coach Frager said. “The first thing we talked about in the locker room was this is a great win and you need to enjoy the moment, but in order for this win to stick, we have to win the next game.”