It only seemed fitting that two of this season's best mid-major women's programs, arguably the best two mid-majors in the Northeast and certainly in New York State, would meet with a trip to the NCAA tournament's Sweet 16 round.
And, it only seemed fitting that St. Bonaventure and Marist would battle to the proverbial bitter end, with a Marist opportunity to send Tuesday night's contest in Tallahassee, Fla., into overtime come up just a little short when a difficult three-pointer in the closing seconds failed to fall.
It was enough for St. Bonaventure to escape with a 66-63 victory and advance to meet the region's top-seeded team Notre Dame Sunday in Raleigh, N.C.
Marist's woes on Tuesday night, though, went beyond a late-game missed three-pointer. From a view in front of the ESPN3 telecast on my 17-inch laptop, the Red Foxes struggled mightily on the boards, getting outrebounded 37-21.
The Bonnies were particularly potent on the offensive boards, and did their damage when it meant the most.
After Marist's Kelsey Beynnon brought the Red Foxes to within a point, 64-63, with 1:23 remaining, the Marist defense came up big on Bona's next possession, forcing the Western N.Y.-based team to miss two shots.
But, the Bonnies got offensive rebounds after both misses as precious seconds ticked off. Marist eventually had to foul Cece Dixon, who made both free throws with 23 seconds remaining.
Marist turned it over on its next possession, but got a last-gasp shot after Jessica Jenkins missed the front end of a one-and-one (she had made 45 consecutive free throws until the miss) with 10 seconds remaining.
It gave Marist time to push it down court and find Leanne Ockenden semi-open from about 24 feet out, but her shot bounced off the side of the rim to end the Red Foxes' season.