‘We’re in winning mode’: Quinnipiac women’s basketball full steam ahead for MAAC tournament after regular-season finale fireworks against Rider


Peyton McKenzie

The Bobcats have clinched the No. 2 seed and a bye in the first round of the MAAC tournament.

Riley Millette, Sports Editor

It’s finally time to shelf the “MAAC tournament is too far away” talk. It’s here. The “one game at a time” mantra is finally referencing the Atlantic City showdown.

Clubhouse leader and senior guard Mackenzie DeWees has prioritized the next game on the schedule at any given time, and nothing else. Before the team’s loss to Manhattan on March 2, she refused to get ahead of herself and focused on securing the No. 2 seed in the tournament.

“If you look any differently than you really are susceptible to losing and we are not in that mode. We’re in winning mode,” DeWees said.

And win they did on Saturday, in big-time fashion. The Rider Broncs came to town and rode out of the People’s United Center with a 71-49 loss. DeWees finished with 13 points, while junior forward Mikala Morris and junior guard Sajada Bonner put up 10 apiece.

As any effective locker room leader does, DeWees resonated with her teammates and achieved their short-term goal of locking down the No. 2 seed.

“I think this is what you played our whole season for, for this tournament,” Bonner said. “And we’re just going to take it one play at a time, one game at a time and just enjoy each other throughout the game.”

With that seed on the line in the Bronx on Wednesday, the Quinnipiac women’s basketball team couldn’t close it out. With the tiebreaker over Manhattan, the Bobcats needed to wait until Saturday for the opportunity to lock down the No. 2 seed.

Wednesday’s game was an overtime barnburner, contender for game of the year. But the Bobcats didn’t mess about with any theatrics in their win over the Broncs. It was a cathartic end to their regular season, the fruit of their dedication to taking care of the regular season before circling March 6 on the calendar.

“Just wire-to-wire, really great basketball,” Quinnipiac head coach Tricia Fabbri said, another phrase that the postgame press conference microphone has heard an awful lot lately.

Everything the Bobcats have done well this season, they did well on Saturday against the Broncs. They allowed only 19 points in the first half playing the airtight man-to-man defense that they’ve perfected this season. They switched effortlessly and closed passing lanes.

They finished around the rim while drawing fouls, they didn’t turn the ball over and they forced bad shots.

It’s yet another example of Quinnipiac doing what it should to inferior opponents. This is the latest of a long stretch of recent games where it’s hosted one of the teams in the bottom half of the MAAC standings and put the hurt on them.

Add Rider to a list of teams that have lost to the Bobcats by double digits in the last month, which already included Marist, Canisius, Iona, Niagara and Siena.

All these teams, save for Niagara, have in-conference records below .500.

Bonner doesn’t want to flush the fact that coming into Saturday, the Bobcats have lost three out of four games against the other top-tier teams in the conference.

“I think we don’t want to forget what happened,” Bonner said. “I think we want to remember, I think we want to learn from it. And I think this dub even shows us more of what we can do when we’re focused and we’re playing as a team.”

As the No. 2 seed in the conference, the Bobcats will have a bye to begin the tournament. If they win on Wednesday, they get a day of rest on Thursday to prepare for Friday’s potential semifinal matchup.

“That day of rest in between is extremely important, for obvious reasons, so that’s what we needed to do,” Fabbri said.