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Marist tops Iona 72-48 for 8th straight MAAC crown

Monday - 3/11/2013, 5:20pm  ET

DOUG FEINBERG
AP Basketball Writer

SPRINGFIELD, Mass. (AP) -- Iona coach Tony Bozzella was frustrated. His team was the latest to fall to Marist in the MAAC final -- the third time in the last seven years that the Gaels have lost to the Red Foxes in the title game.

Bozzella knows that it's only a matter of time before someone finds a way to end Marist's dominance. With a young team that features no seniors in the starting lineup he hopes that it's the Gaels.

"We've got to find a way -- we will find a way," he said. "Someone's going to step up. I do believe it will be our group. Once you can beat them, they may lose a little bit of confidence. They are the best mid-major in the country. It's not even close."

Bozzella hasn't had any success against Marist, losing all 27 times he's faced coach Brian Giorgis. The latest came in a 72-48 defeat Monday.

"We were down seven and had our opportunities," Bozzella said. "I'm glad we're not going to end our season with this being our last game."

Joy Adams had 15 points and 11 rebounds to lead the Gaels (20-12), who will play in the WNIT postseason tournament.

Elizabeth Beynnon scored 15 points to lead Marist.

Making the NCAAs has become an annual rite of spring for the Red Foxes. Their conference tournament winning streak is the longest active in the nation.

Marist has won 21 straight games overall.

The Red Foxes (26-6) led the Gaels 40-33 early in the second half before scoring 11 straight to put the game away and start the celebration. The Red Foxes have now won nine MAAC titles, matching Saint Peter's for the most in conference history.

Marist has had a fine run under Giorgis. When he first came to the program in 2002 after a successful high school career in the area, the program had never made the NCAA tournament. Now the Red Foxes' home games are nearly sold out and the fans are entertained by a talented team and a spirited pep band.

The names on the back of the uniforms change but the result hasn't. The Red Foxes have won five NCAA tournament games since 2007 when the school -- some 90 miles outside New York City -- burst onto the national scene by upsetting Ohio State in the first round.

"Winning five games will always make somebody nervous," Giorgis said. "That's the fun part about it. We've gone through 21 games with a huge target on our back. Now we get back to the fun part, we don't have a target on our back we're the underdog. We don't mind that at all."

Giorgis set up a challenging non-conference schedule that feature games against UConn, Purdue, Oklahoma and Kentucky. The Red Foxes were 5-6 coming into the New Year after a 22-point defeat at Kentucky on Dec. 30. They haven't lost since, with only Fairfield able to come within single digits.

Marist trailed Iona 15-13 midway through the first half before scoring 19 of the next 26 points to take a 32-22 lead on Emma O'Connor's jumper with 3:28 left in the half.

The Red Foxes led 34-27 at the break. They led 40-37 with 16 minutes left before putting Iona away with a 14-1 run.

Marist won the two meetings between the teams in the regular season, beating Iona at home by 14 and topping the Stags by 23 on Feb. 7.

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