The Marist women's basketball team wasn't anywhere near its best for this humble blogger's first view of it this season, a 65-55 victory at Siena Sunday afternoon.
But, it's easy to see why the Lady Red Foxes win games. The last five minutes of play provided the perfect example.
During that stretch, when poise and the experience of having "been there" before came into play, Marist scored points on nine of its final 10 possessions, did not commit a single turnover, made 10 of 11 free throws, and put a defensive clamp on Siena that forced the Saints into 1-of-6 shooting over the final five minutes.
"I love this win became this is a game we didn't deserve to win, yet still found a way to get a win," said Marist coach Brian Giorgis.
"We have to learn from this ... I think we needed a game like this."
Clearly, Siena brought more energy to the contest than Marist, and therein lies the lesson Giorgis hopes his team learned Sunday.
As for what Marist, under Giorgis, has done in the overall scheme of things ... where does one begin?
- Marist, now, has won its last 35 games against MAAC opponents, results that include the conference's post-season tournament, a streak which is believed to a league record.
- Despite the loss of standout players annually, Marist is currently riding a 14-game overall winning streak. Entering Sunday's game, it was tied with Duke for the sixth-longest winning streak nationally.
- Marist is now 17-1 overall this season, the program's best start to a season ever.
- Since the start of the 2007-08 season, Marist's record is 49-4. Starting with the 2003-04 season, Marist's overall record is 143-35.
- Last year's team swept the MAAC's regular season, finishing 18-0, becoming the first 18-0 team in conference history and joining Saint Peter's (14-0 in 1996-97, and 5-0 in the league's inaugural 1981-82 season) as the only teams to go through league play without a loss.
- Over the previous three seasons Marist has a 51-3 record in MAAC play, the best three-year run in league history. Including this year, Marist is 59-3 over the past four seasons in conference play. Including the 2004-05 season, Marist 74-6 in regular-season MAAC play. If you include its final four games of the 2003-04 season, the record becomes 78-6.
Did anyone say "Phenomenal?"
And, it doesn't appear as if there's an end in sight. The only contributing senior is guard Julianne Viani, although she might be this season's most-important piece. The other nine players to get time against Siena on Sunday include two juniors, three sophomores and four freshmen.
Looks like what has already become a MAAC dynasty will continue on for the foreseeable future.
No wonder that, around Poughkeepsie, the program has earned the nickname of "Girlzaga," for its apt comparison to mid-major men's program Gonzaga which has a fixture in the national top 25 polls in recent years.