SPRINGFIELD, MASS. - Kelsey Beynnon (Burlington, Vt.) picked the perfect game to have a career-day. The junior recorded the first double-double of her career, scoring a game-high 23 points and nearly tripling her previous personal best with 16 rebounds to help Marist survive a scare from #5 Niagara. The Red Foxes overcame a 13-point second half deficit, outscoring Niagara 41-14 over the final 19 minutes of the game to win 68-54 Saturday in the Metro Atlantic Athletic Conference (MAAC) Semifinals at the MassMutual Center.
Trailing 40-27 with 13:56 left in the game, Beynnon started the comeback with a layup and followed it up with hitting a pair of free throws. After a Corielle Yarde (Reading, Pa.) free throw and a Niagara basket, Beynnon hit two more from the charity stripe and hit another layup. Casey Dulin (Milford, Conn.) then converted a steal on one end into a breakaway basket before Yarde hit one of her four three-pointers in the game, sending the large Marist crown into a frenzy. Beynnon completed the comeback, tying the score at 43-43 with a long jumper.
The Purple Eagles jumped back ahead 49-45, but Yarde hit another trey and Dulin hit a jump shot to give Marist (24-7, 17-1 MAAC) their first lead since six minutes into the game, at 50-49 with 1:34 left. After a Niagara (14-19, 9-9 MAAC) bucket, Brandy Gang hit a pair of free throws with 31 seconds remaining to again give the Red Foxes the lead. Lauren Gatto hit one of two from the charity stripe with seven seconds to provide the final scoring in regulation. Leanne Ockenden (Syracuse, N.Y.) attempted a three-pointer at the buzzer that rimmed out.
Gatto hit two free throws to start overtime, but that was the only offense Niagara could muster for the final five minutes. Marist outscored the Purple Eagles 16-2 in overtime, including six points from Dulin and five from Yarde, as the defense stepped up big. Gang had two blocks, Beynnon had a steal and the Red Foxes forced Niagara into 0-8 shooting.
Beynnon was a career-best 11-12 from the free-throw line and hit six of her nine shots from the floor. She also added four steals while playing a career-high 44 minutes. Yarde, coming off of a double-double performance of her own, finished with 16 points and eight assists, one off of her own personal best. Dulin had 16 points, six rebounds and four assists. Gang had 10 points and four blocks and Ockenden had four assist and four steals and hit a big three-pointer in the overtime period for her only points of the game. The Red Foxes blocked six Niagara shots, a day after they blocked seven in the quarterfinals versus Saint Peter's.
Marist struggled offensively to start the game, missing on their first five shots. Beynnon finally got the Red Foxes on the board with a layup with 16:05 remaining in the first half. Meanwhile the defense got off to a strong start, keeping Niagara to just five points over the first five minutes. Beynnon and Gang hit back-to-back layups to put Marist up 6-5.
Niagara went on a 13-3 run over the next seven minutes to open an 18-9 lead. Marist used the charity stripe to get back into the game. They went 8-8 over the final five minutes, with six of those coming from Beynnon. Dulin also hit a pair and added a layup.
Yarde hit a three-pointer in the final minute to bring Marist to even at halftime, 22-22. It was the first time this season that the Red Foxes were not leading a MAAC opponent at the midway point.
Beynnon led all scorers with 10 points at the break, including those six from the free-throw line. Gang, Dulin and Yarde all had four points to provide all of the scoring for Marist.
The Purple Eagles opened the second half on an 18-5 run on the backs of Gatto and Chanel Johnson who had 10 and four points, respectively. The streak took the first six minutes of the half before Marist began their comeback.
Notes - Marist is now 2-1 versus the Purple Eagles in the MAAC Tournament, as they also won in the 2010 MAAC Semifinals, 69-47 ... Marist leads the all-time series with Niagara 20-11 and are 19-3 under Head Coach Brian Giorgis... The two teams met two weeks ago at Niagara, where the Red Foxes won 79-77 in double-overtime.