It would be easy to theorize that the Marist women's victory in Sunday's MAAC tournament's championship game was greatly aided when Fairfield's standout senior center Stephanie Geehan drew her second foul with 10:15 left in the first half and didn't play again after the intermission.
At the time the Stags only trailed by three points. Before Geehan got back in the game in the second half her team faced a 10-point deficit.
But ... Marist's own standout, three-time Player of the Year Rachele Fitz also sat out the last eight minutes of the first half with foul woes.
Therein was a major difference between the two teams in the Red Foxes' 66-49 victory over Fairfield in Sunday afternoon's contest.
The winners got 16 points from its bench, while Fairfield got 25 minutes total (and no points) from its bench.
"Those last minutes of the first half weren't an easy thing for us," admitted Fairfield coach Joe Frager. "We don't have the depth that Marist has.
"Rachele Fitz is a very good player and she does a lot of great things for Marist, but Stephanie Geehan is a terrific player, too, and we don't play well without her."
Still, the Stags managed to get within four, 48-44, with 8:30 left in the second half on senior forward Tara Flahertys inside bucket.
But, Marist guard Erica Allenspach responded with a three-pointer to push the winners' lead to 51-44. Marist added six more points before Fairfield could score again and the Stags never got their deficit under double figures again.
"I'm so proud of our kids," said Marist coach Brian Giorgis. "We didn't have two great games in our first two games of this tournament, but we saved the best for last. That we lost our best player for a long stretch with foul trouble and extended our lead with our bench was tremendous.
"We just know how to win, what it takes to win and how to rise to the occassion."
Fitz finished with 15 points in the game, but the winners were lead by sophomore guard Corielle Yard, who had 17 points. Allenspach added 13 points for the Red Foxes, now 26-7 on the season.
Fairfield, which finishes at 19-13, got 16 points from sophomore guard Desiree Pina. Geehan added 10 points.
A NOTE OF THANKS ...
Immediately after Sunday's game, Marist coach Brian Giorgis received a text message from his good friend Tony Borzella, the head coach at Iona.
The Red Foxes' victory not only ensured that they would go to the NCAA tournament, but also kept Iona's season alive.
The Gaels, who finished second in regular-season conference play, will move on to the women's NIT via an agreement that the second-place conference team will go there, provided the confererence's regular-season champion wins the post-season tournament.
ALL-TOURNAMENT TEAMS SELECTED ...
Marist's senior forward Rachele Fitz was named the MVP of the women's tournament.
Also named to the all-tournament team were Thazina Cook of Iona, Stephanie Geehan of Fairfield, Desiree Pina of Fairfield, Erica Allenspach of Marist and Corielle Yarde of Marist.