The Quinnipiac Bobcats are champions again, defeating Marist 67-58 for an automatic bid to the NCAA Tournament

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The Quinnipiac Bobcats are champions again, defeating Marist 67-58 for an automatic bid to the NCAA Tournament

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By: Sierra Goodwill

Champs again.

The Quinnipiac women’s basketball team finished its perfect conference season by defeating the Marist Red Foxes 67-58 in the Metro Atlantic Athletic Conference Championship and earned a trip to the NCAA Tournament for the second year in a row.

“I’m excited that we were able to do something that we haven’t done before back-to-back,” head coach Tricia Fabbri said.

But unlike most of its other MAAC opponents, Marist gave Quinnipiac a run for its money. Down by one at half, the Bobcats knew what they had to do: find Jen Fay.

Fay made all of Quinnipiac’s baskets but one in the third quarter, including scoring all eight points during the 8-0 run that the Bobcats strung together out of the locker room that put them up for good.

After the final buzzer, Fay was named the 2018 MAAC Tournament Most Valuable Player for her 23-point and 10 rebound performance.

The most impressive part about this? Hours before tip, she didn’t think she was going to play.

Fay woke up Monday morning and knocked on her coach’s hotel room door complaining of pain in the back of her left knee. Fay came down awkwardly on it at the end of her team’s semifinal game against Rider and didn’t know if she’d be able to play through it.

“I woke up today and wasn’t feeling great. My mind just wasn’t really in it,” Fay said.   “But my teammates were really supporting me and I mean, it’s the championship game, it would take a lot for me not to play. Once the adrenaline started pumping and I started sweating a little bit there was no way I was coming out.”

While Fay had the best performance on the court, Tricia Fabbri has her own MVPs: the doctors and trainers who got her star player in good enough shape to play and bring another trophy back to Hamden.

“Even this morning we weren’t sure in shoot around,” the head coach said. “She was getting treatment and being put through the paces with the treatment and procedures that was getting her to be available for us this afternoon. I think anywhere else we don’t have the opportunity to have Jen available. And look what she was able to do, especially in the second half, for us.”

Fay’s teammate and good friend, Carly Fabbri, had faith that she would find a will and a way to overcome her injury and contribute on the biggest stage so far this season.

“She’s a competitor, obviously one of the best players on our team,” the senior guard said. “I was confident that she was going to shake the nerves a little bit. Both her and I have had a history of knee problems, so any time you get any injury you’re a little weary of that. But as the day went on I could see her smiling a little bit more and there was just a lighter mood.”

Fay wasn’t the only one with an injury scare in this game. Aryn McClure showed signs of clear discomfort in the second half and she eventually hit the deck, forcing trainers and coaches to assist her off the court.

However, McClure’s injury had a much simpler explanation that Tricia Fabbri briefly summarized in the press conference.

“Cramping.”

Despite the continued pain throughout the game, McClure finished with seven points, nine rebounds and was named to the MAAC All-Tournament Team.

Everyone knows what’s up next for the Bobcats. They’ll return to the ball where they were last year’s Cinderella, hoping to make noise and raise eyebrows once again.

“I think obviously when our name goes up on the boards and they’re breaking down the pods, people are going to be a little more interested in saying our name this year,” Tricia Fabbri said. “I don’t think we’re going to sneak up on anyone. Any coach is going to do their homework and know the success we had last year.”

Her daughter Carly is hoping Quinnipiac’s Sweet 16 experience has given them a reputation and that whoever their opponent is, respects what the Bobcats are capable of.

“Hopefully they’ll be a little scared,” the younger Fabbri said. “We love being the underdog in that situation, but we’re confident that whomever we see, we’re going to have a fair chance to win that game. Always you’re going to get those jitters in that big-time game, but having been there and won there is really going to work to our advantage.”

Quinnipiac will officially see its seeding and opponent when it’s released on ESPN’s annual Selection Monday show on March 12.

“We’ve been working for this since last April when it all came to an end, so we’re excited for Selection Monday,” Carly Fabbri said. “It’s always an awesome feeling so I can’t wait to see who we get. I’m trying not to lose anytime soon. I’m trying to keep my basketball career for as long as I can.”