Season after season, Marist women’s basketball showcases an almost incomprehensible level of consistency that isn’t likely to change anytime soon.
The Red Foxes (12-5, 6-1 Metro Atlantic Athletic Conference) started their Western New York swing with a matinee victory over Niagara on Friday, 74-59, and conclude with a game at 2 p.m. Sunday at Canisius.
Despite a loss on Monday at home to Iona, Marist’s first in MAAC play since the 2011-12 season, the Red Foxes are favored to capture the regular-season title for the 10th consecutive season.
They are also shooting for their ninth straight NCAA Tournament berth under Brian Giorgis, now in his 12th season.
“He’s been winning championships here for the longest time and before he came here in high school he was winning, too,” Marist senior forward Emma O’Connor said. “He obviously knows what he’s been doing if he’s been this successful. I trust everything he says because he knows it all and he’s been there before and he knows what he’s talking about.”
Marist has lost 13 games in the MAAC since the 2004-05 season and produced six conference players of the year.
“People buy into our system and it seems to be working,” Giorgis said. “It’s very team-oriented and we have certain philosophies defensively and certain philosophies offensively.”
Defensively, they try to take away transition baskets and force teams to play them in the halfcourt.
“We play our defense differently than most teams,” said Madeline Blais, a sophomore guard who also swings to the frontcourt. “We focus on tendencies – what people do, what they don’t do – so there’s a lot that goes on behind the scene before the game.”
Marist plays help-side defense but on Friday the Red Foxes were instructed not to leave Niagara’s Meghan McGuinness and Val McQuade, who combined have 76 three-pointers.
McGuinness was 2 of 4, McQuade was 0 for 3 and the Purple Eagles were just 4 of 11 for the afternoon. That created some space for the Purple Eagles’ Chanel Johnson, who scored a team-high 18 points.
“We take away what they’re best at and pray to God they don’t succeed,” said Blais, who matched her career high with 27 points on Friday.
The Red Foxes will live with that as long as McGuinness and McQuade are contained. McQuade finished with 10 points and McGuinness four.
The game plan will be similar Sunday against Canisius.
The Golden Griffins’ Jen Morabito ranks in the top 15 in the MAAC in three-point percentage (.342) while Kayla Hoohuli is one of two players in the league to make a three-pointer in 15 or more games this season.
“They penetrate a little less than Niagara and they have better post-up players,” said O’Connor, who finished with 15 points and three steals on Friday.
“So that’s going to be a big thing for us because we’re a little undersized in the post.”
Marist runs a five-out motion offense, which more MAAC teams are utilizing – Niagara and Canisius run a similar four-out, one-in motion.
Giorgis primarily recruits mobile post players who can shoot the three.
“That’s been our bread and butter over the years,” Giorgis said.
Giorgis molded his offense as a head coach at Our Lady of Lourdes High School in Poughkeepsie.
He scrimmaged the Sue Bird-led teams from national power Christ the King in Middle Village and Lourdes had trouble moving the ball running sets.
Giorgis put in the motion with an emphasis on screening and reversing the ball quickly and has run it ever since.
“Not only was it successful on the high school level but it helps you against the teams that are much more athletic, bigger, quicker and faster, teams that like to pressure you,” Giorgis said.
The coach credits the motion for Marist being able to topple teams like Georgia, Ohio State and Nebraska.
Surprisingly, Giorgis has not received any offers from bigger schools, but that’s fine by him. He spent 19 seasons at Lourdes and won better than 90 percent of his games before moving four miles down the road to Marist, where he’s been since 2002. Poughkeepsie is home.
“The word is out that I’m very comfortable where I’m at,” Giorgis said. “For 38 years of teaching and coaching I’ve been at two great schools where the faculty and staff have been nothing but wonderful.”