Marist women win seventh straight MAAC title

DOUG FEINBERG AP Basketball Writer Published:

SPRINGFIELD, Mass. (AP) -- Corielle Yarde was chosen as tournament MVP and scored 16 points to help Marist beat Fairfield 61-35 on Monday to win the Metro Atlantic Athletic Conference tournament for the seventh straight year and clinch a bid to the NCAA tournament.

Brandy Gang added 15 for the Red Foxes (25-7), who have won 20 consecutive MAAC tournament games with the last loss coming to Canisius in the 2005 title game, set a tournament record allowing the fewest points in a title game -- surpassing the 38 Niagara scored in 1997.

Fairfield (24-8) was bidding for its first trip to the NCAA tournament since winning the MAAC in 1998. This was the Stags' fourth championship game -- they lost in 2000, 2001 and 2010. Fairfield would have especially liked to win this year because the school is hosting the first two rounds of the NCAA tournament in Bridgeport.

Marist almost didn't get a chance to defend its title. The Red Foxes were almost knocked off in the semifinals before rallying to beat Niagara in overtime. The Red Foxes trailed by 13 in that game with just under 14 minutes left.

On Monday, they jumped all over the Stags behind Gang. She helped them build an early 19-7 lead, hitting two 3-pointers. The Red Foxes led 30-18 at the half.

After Brittany MacFarlane hit a layup 14 seconds into the second half to bring Fairfield within 10, Marist put the game away.

The Red Foxes held Fairfield without a basket for the next 13 minutes, going on a 24-3 run. Yarde, who was the MAAC player of the year, had seven straight points during the burst -- including a nifty reverse layup that made it 36-20.

After three free throws by Taryn Johnson brought Fairfield back within 13, Marist scored the next 18 points.

The Stags missed 16 shots during its drought before Desiree Pina finally connected on a jumper with 6:43 left. She led the Stags with nine points.

Fairfield shot just 21 percent from the field (12 for 57).

Unlike some of the great Marist teams over the past decade, this one struggled early in the season when starting point guard Kristine Best went down with an ACL injury to her left knee. The Red Foxes were sitting at 5-6 heading into the new year before winning 20 of their last 21 games. The lone blemish during that stretch was a loss at Manhattan that ended Marist's 34-game conference winning streak.

Marist won the two meetings between the teams in the regular season, beating Fairfield at home by 12 then topping the Stags by six on Feb. 10.