By any means necessary: Quinnipiac edges out Fairfield 66-60 in overtime


Peyton McKenzie

Sophomore forward Grace LaBarge was second on the team in points Saturday afternoon.

Benjamin Yeargin, Associate Sports Editor

FAIRFIELD, Conn – In what felt more like a slugfest, the Quinnipiac women’s basketball team edged out Fairfield in a gritty, regular season classic, 66-60 in overtime Saturday afternoon.

Quinnipiac got on the board in the first quarter with senior forward Mikala Morris showing why she has one of the best mid-range jumpers in the conference, shooting over Fairfield junior forward Mackenzie Daleba.

Defensively, the Bobcats started with a man-on-man look applying pressure to a Fairfield offense that put up points in the paint early with graduate student forward Callie Cavanaugh, who registered six in the quarter. Quinnipiac forced two Stag turnovers, putting them ahead 7-6 at the media timeout.

The Bobcats struggled to find their rhythm early, accruing two shot clock violations. The Stags found their way to the basket by any means necessary, which is why they led 14-9 at the end of the first quarter.

“We were allowing them to rush us a lot,” Morris said. “We’re forcing shots, we had turnovers that usually we don’t have.”

Fairfield’s stifling man defense continued to sputter the Quinnipiac offense. Meanwhile, the Stags surged to a ten-point lead, punctuated by a three from freshman guard Kate Peek.

The MVP of the first half was undoubtedly Cavanaugh. The Massachusetts native shut down the Bobcats in the paint, making them constantly take uncomfortable shots while also leading Fairfield in scoring with 10 in the first half.

Quinnipiac surged back, going on an 8-0 run while putting pressure on Cavanaugh to pull the game back within three. But that was halted by a Fairfield defense that troubled the Bobcats throughout the first half, which is why they were down 29-25 to the Stags leaving it.

Part of the reason is Quinnipiac’s dismal 32% from the free-throw line up to that point. The Bobcats tended to miss their first shot, then knock down the second. Fairfield dominated from beyond the arc too, outshooting Quinnipiac 9-3 from three.

Coming out of the half, Morris set the tone with an and-one. That fight and tenacity are what Quinnipiac consistently possessed the whole game, with bodies constantly hitting the floor throughout the contest. Sophomore forward Grace LaBarge had blood on her legs and her right elbow by the end of the game from diving for balls.

“We’re playing a physical team, I feel like we were always having to match their physicality,” LaBarge said. “One of our core values as a team is playing physical and outcompeting the other team.”

Morris continued to lead the way, using her aforementioned mid-range jumper to give Quinnipiac the lead in the third.

LaBarge continued to prove herself as a necessary cog in this team’s operation. Her consistency at the charity stripe, ability to shoot the three and gather rebounds by any means necessary changed the team’s momentum.

“Every little thing she did,” head coach Tricia Fabbri said. “Every defense, every rebound, every drive, she went to the hole too and got fouled.”

Going into the final frame, Quinnipiac needed to close. It vied to explode early instead.

LaBarge set the tone by putting her body on the line throughout the entire frame, then graduate student guard Rose Caverly made an acrobatic lay-up falling to the floor while guiding the ball into the hoop and sophomore guard Jackie Grisdale got on the board with a three before Fairfield called a timeout.

The tables turned and Quinnipiac now led 48-37.

But Fairfield wasn’t done. It stormed back in the fourth, going a perfect 3-3 from the field led by who else but Cavanaugh, registering 20 points in the contest.

The Stags kept on charging and took the lead from the Bobcats off a three from junior guard Janelle Brown with 1:11 left in the fourth quarter.

However, a Morris two put Quinnipiac up by one in a pure nail-biter.

The game came down to the final seconds. The Bobcats had the basketball, but a Morris turnover on the baseline gave Fairfield control of the ball. A missed three from the Stags while the buzzer sounded sent the game to overtime.

Quinnipiac started overtime with a Caverly three and kept on chugging. Graduate student guard Mackenzie DeWees shined, forcing a foul and nailing both of her free throws. Caverly banged in another three and with 1:13 left in the frame, Quinnipiac led 60-56.

All of the Bobcat’s early troubles at the line were forgiven, as Grisdale made both of her shots at the stripe. On the inbound off a three from Brown, DeWees caught the ball and had it stolen from her, which gave the Stags possession.

It didn’t matter. Morris hit one of her free throws, Grisdale hit both of hers and Quinnipiac won 66-60, overcoming adversity in the process.

“I think we’ve been learning to handle not-great runs by the other team much better,” Fabbri said. “I’m not sure (at) Christmas time we find a way to win.”

The Bobcats will travel down to Maryland and compete against Mount St. Mary’s on Thursday, Feb. 16, at 7 p.m.