Women’s Basketball Cruises to Championship Win, Heads Back to NCAA Tourney

Kevin Higgins

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Photo: Liz Flynn

What makes a dynasty?


Is it successful players? Is it championships, with some banners to fly around? Or is it just plain dominance?


The Quinnipiac Bobcats women’s basketball team checks off every box.


The Bobcats (26-6, 21-0 MAAC) capped off their second consecutive perfect conference season and third straight MAAC title with a masterful performance in an 81-51 win over the Marist Red Foxes (23-10, 15-6 MAAC) on Monday afternoon.


“35 out of a 40-minute game was perfection for us,” Quinnipiac head coach Tricia Fabbri said. “An incredible way to close it out.”


Incredible it was, as Jen Fay defined that word with a 25 point, 13 rebound performance en route to her second straight MAAC Tournament Most Valuable Player award. The senior was simply unstoppable on both ends of the floor, and her comments after the game echoed the assertive nature she played with.


“Just being confident,” Fay explained. “I just kept pulling when I was open, and my teammates believe in me when I shoot… when I’m open, I shoot the ball.”


Shooting the ball came easily to Fay throughout the game, but it was even easier for the Red Foxes in the early stages of the game. Fabbri complimented her team’s play for 35 of the 40 minutes; those other five minutes were from Marist’s flawless start.


To say that Marist came out flying would be an understatement; they couldn’t miss early on. Literally. Led by Sarah Barcello and Grace Vander Weide, the Red Foxes started an impeccable 6-for-6 from the floor against one of the nation’s best defenses. This allowed them to jump to an early five-point lead and a 20-18 advantage after one. Despite the early onslaught, Fay and teammate Aryn McClure, who poured in 18 points, helped their team weather the storm.


“We just let them shoot too many threes,” Fay said. “Cleaning that up a little bit really changed the game.”


“Going into the second quarter, I felt we were more confident… especially on the defensive end,” McClure said. “(We were) talking and giving each other that confidence to lock up and secure whoever we were playing.”


If you’re beginning to notice a theme here, it’s that Quinnipiac’s confidence won them this game, and it was evident as ever throughout the next quarter.


The Bobcats came out roaring in the game’s second frame, as they unleashed an 8-0 run to start, highlighted by two clutch threes from senior guard Edel Thornton, who scored a season high 16 points and added 6 rebounds and 5 assists in the biggest game of the year. That performance didn’t go unnoticed by her coach.


“I thought Edel Thornton led us to victory today,” Fabbri said. “She played the game that we needed her to play… dictating offense and defense… Edel played the best game of her season today.”


Fay then stole the show once again, scoring seven straight Quinnipiac points and owning the glass on both ends. It didn’t hurt that Marist finally cooled off; after the scorching start, the Red Foxes hit only six of their next 20 shots, including multiple open looks.


Quinnipiac withstood its opponent’s charge, but Marist couldn’t say the same; 10 turnovers forced and an abundance of second chance points gave the Bobcats a 38-29 lead at halftime.


If the result of the game was in any doubt after the first 20 minutes, Quinnipiac erased it over the next 10, turning a heavyweight bout into a laugher. It seemed as though each time the Bobcats missed a shot, the rebound found its way back into their hands. Quinnipiac collected a staggering 23 offensive boards, leading to a 28-5 advantage in second chance points. The Bobcats outrebounded Marist 50-27 as a whole.


“We emphasized boxing out, because (in Marist’s last game) they got a lot a lot of O-boards,” McClure said. “And that was a big key for us… to box out and pursue those O-boards.”


“We know we’re going to miss some shots,” Fay said with a shrug. “So you’ve got to get on the glass and shoot another one.”


In perhaps the most symbolic sequence of the game, Fay’s words were personified. About halfway through the third, McClure swatted the ball from Marist’s leading scorer Rebekah Hand, who only managed four points, and raced to take it back herself. She then missed a three down court, but Fay corralled the board. Fay missed her initial attempt, but grabbed her own miss for another rebound before fighting through contact for an and-one to open up an 18-point lead. Marist was worn down and demoralized on both ends, and it never got within 14 the rest of the way.


The fourth quarter was a victory lap for the Bobcats. Their senior class – Fay, McClure, Thornton, Paula Strautmane and Brittany Martin – got the chance to have fun and soak up one final MAAC title.


As Fay checked out one final time with just over 2 minutes to play, she and Fabbri couldn’t hold back from showing full-faced grins: they knew what they had just done.


They had won their 52nd straight conference game, capped off another unblemished MAAC season, and showed once more that they are head and shoulders above every other team in their conference. They ran faster, jumped higher, and frankly played better than any MAAC team in their way over the last three years. And Fabbri believes that they deserve some attention.


“This entire class has led us to national recognition,” Fabbri said, her voice cracking slightly. She took a long pause before continuing. “And individually they were not recognized… I don’t get coach of the year without players… it really – I have a pit in my stomach.”


One thing is for sure: Fabbri’s players and her team will receive their fair share of national acknowledgement at the NCAA Tournament selection show next Monday after their 30-point win. After being crowned champions once more, the dynasty in Hamden is alive and well.


Quinnipiac secured the MAAC’s automatic bid with the win, and it will find out its NCAA Tournament placement next Monday during the NCAA selection show. Marist will wait to see if it gets an invitation to a postseason tournament.