Marist women roll over Saint Peter’s, into NCAA Tournament

ATLANTIC CITY, N.J. — Willow Duffell scored 20 points with 13 rebounds and a career-high six blocks as top seed Marist beat third-seeded Saint Peter’s 69-30 on Saturday to win the Metro Atlantic Athletic Conference Tournament championship and advance to the NCAA Tournament.

Leading by 13, Marist (18-3) gave up a bucket to the Peacocks to open the second half then Sarah Barcello scored five points to kick off a 14-0 run and the game was effectively over. The 39-point final margin was the largest in tournament history.

Marist was in the title game for the 15th time in 19 years under coach Brian Giorgis. The Red Foxes reached the title game in each of Giorgis’ first 12 years, winning 10 times. They also reached the title game in 2018 and 2019 but haven’t won it since 2014. Saint Peter’s hadn’t been to the title game since 2002, when it won its ninth crown in 12 appearances.

“I would probably say that it (this title) is right up there with the first one, because this group got everything out of itself, you know,” Giorgis said. “You lose 2,000- to 1,500- and 1,000-point scorers, and just have a couple of role players back and to be able to do what we’ve done this year, and to do it the way I like to do it with defense, and they really put on a clinic today defensively. I mean, hats off to these kids.”

Caitlin Weimar added 12 points and nine rebounds and combined with Duffell to shoot 15 of 25, neither taking a shot beyond the arc, as Marist dominated on the boards 41-32 and points in the paint 42-10.

It was a game-long struggle for the Peacocks (13-15), who fell behind by 15 after the first quarter and, despite a 10-0 run to open the second quarter, never recovered, shooting just 21% and giving up 25 points off turnovers. The Peacocks didn’t have a player score more than six points and their 30 points were their fewest scored this season.

The Red Foxes were in double figures before the midway point of the first quarter with an opening 12-0 run while the Peacocks missed their first seven shots and were 1-of-10 shooting with five turnovers. Marist led 20-5 after the first quarter.

The teams split a two-game set to end the regular season, the Red Foxes winning by 16 and losing by seven.

“You know, like Saint Peter’s, we both went through a lot, and I think the greatest feat this year outside of winning this was not testing positive from the time they got on campus,” Giorgis said. “They know that they sacrificed a lot to get to where they are now, and I couldn’t be more proud of a group.”

Marist has a 5-10 record in the NCAA Tournament, its last victory coming in the first round in 2012 when it beat Georgia 76-70.