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The Quinnipiac Chronicle

The Student News Site of Quinnipiac University

The Quinnipiac Chronicle

The Student News Site of Quinnipiac University

The Quinnipiac Chronicle

‘Anna Foley is on fire:’ Foley, LaBarge will women’s basketball to a crucial win over Iona

Nicholas Pestritto
Freshman forward Anna Foley posted 27 points and 11 rebounds in Quinnipiac’s 72-68 win over Iona Thursday evening.

NEW ROCHELLE, NY — If Quinnipiac women’s basketball plays in the MAAC postseason tournament like it mostly played in its 72-68 win over Iona Thursday evening, it’ll be in decent shape.

Fast passes. Transition basketball. Hitting threes. These are all staples of Bobcats’ basketball. And when they’re on, they’re on.

“A lot of times in the past couple of losses, we’ve gotten the same shots, just haven’t been able to hit them,” freshman forward Anna Foley said. “(We) finally trusted our game.”

With marquee performances from Foley (27 points, 11 rebounds), junior forward Grace LaBarge (15 points, four rebounds) and sophomore guard Bri Bowen (12 points, eight rebounds), Quinnipiac put itself in a great position to win.

On the slate of four MAAC games held Thursday night, Quinnipiac-Iona looked inconspicuous. The No. 7 seed versus the No. 8 seed isn’t a game fit for the royals of the conference.

But it was the most important game on the schedule.

The winner of this matchup would gain control over the No. 7 seed, which is the potential difference between facing nationally-ranked No. 25 Fairfield in the first round or a more manageable Niagara/Siena.

“We don’t want to focus on what team we’re playing,” Foley said. “All the teams that we’ve played, I feel like we’ve been right in there.”

The Bobcats got two starting-caliber players back tonight, with freshman guard Karson Martin and sophomore forward Ella O’Donnell both returning from injury. The former had not played since Feb. 24, the latter since Jan. 25.

This game already felt like it belonged in Atlantic City, New Jersey, and Quinnipiac rose to the occasion in its most crucial contest yet.

In the first half, the Bobcats played like Lightning McQueen from “Cars.” Fast, physical, with finesse and with dominance.

Iona started the night playing a full-court press, but Quinnipiac found its way out of it with dishes in the paint and authoritative drives.

Bowen was speed, powering her way to the paint twice within the first two minutes of the contest. The Bobcats led 6-3.

With back-to-back threes from freshman guard Ava Sollenne and a few more baskets, Quinnipiac led 22-16 after one.

The second quarter was more or less the same: the Bobcats cruised.

In the frame and throughout the day, Foley dominated. On her birthday, she gave Quinnipiac nothing but gifts, starting and ending the frame with buckets.

Combined with makes from LaBarge, Bowen and junior guard Reiven Douglas, the Bobcats looked on the way to an easy win. They led 38-27 at the half.

“In the first half we were in complete control,” head coach Tricia Fabbri said.

But then it all came crumbling down. Quinnipiac has struggled in the third, but today was the worst possible time to do so.

Graduate guard Natalia Otkhmezuri — who also was celebrating her birthday today — shifted her game into second gear during the second half. The Republic of Georgia native led the Gaels with nine points in the frame, and pushed the Bobcats to their limit.

For Quinnipiac, turnovers, fouls and anxiety defined the third quarter. The Bobcats turned the ball over seven times compared to Iona’s three, and out-fouled the Gaels 12-5, including a technical assessed to Martin.

The crowd of 675 at the Hynes Athletic Center was loud, the four pep teams of Iona were raucous and the Bobcats did not play organized. They scraped out of the third with a 48-46 lead.

They needed to chill, LaBarge had the solution and the team reciprocated.

“I like to say ‘take a deep breath,’ that’s something that calms me down,” LaBarge said.

“Grace pulled us together and said ‘everything’s going to be okay,’” Foley said.

But in the fourth, Quinnipiac managed to stay one step ahead of the Gaels. The first few minutes were filled with back-and-forth buckets from both sides. Halfway through, the Bobcats got out to a seven-point line, but were reeled in by Iona.

The birthday women — Otkhmezuri and Foley — led the way for their respective sides and all-out battled at the end.

Foley did her best Dirk Nowitzki impression and nailed a fade away jumper to give Quinnipiac a 60-54 lead. A couple minutes later, Otkhmezuri drilled a three to put the game at 61-58.

On the next possession, Foley sliced and diced her way through Iona’s defense en route to the basket, where she extended the lead to 63-58 Quinnipiac. Then Otkhmezuri found her way to the basket. 63-60.

LaBarge came up clutch in the corner, nailing a three to put the game out of reach for the Gaels 66-60. But Otkhmezuri willed Iona back, with two threes in the final 30 seconds, that cut Quinnipiac’s lead to 68-66.

But the final word belonged to Foley and LaBarge. They buried their free throws (water, as they said postgame) down the stretch and sealed the 72-68 win for the Bobcats.

Foley’s 27 points and 11 rebounds — which both led the team — add to a 10-game stretch where she’s averaged 18.4 points and 8.6 rebounds a game.

“She’s been special since day one … she’s wise beyond her years, she’s learned on the job,” Fabbri said. “Anna Foley is on fire.”

With the win today, Quinnipiac clinched the No. 7 seed in the MAAC tournament. It will either play Saint Peter’s or Marist in the first round on Tuesday, March 12. Tipoff for that game is set for 12:45 p.m.

But first, the Bobcats close out the regular season by facing Marist on Saturday at 2 p.m. The Red Foxes are currently tied for last in the conference.

“We go in with momentum, with a chip on our shoulder … (we) make some noise,” LaBarge said.

But even before then, Foley gets to enjoy her birthday with brownies from her parents, and Quinnipiac gets to enjoy a hard-fought win.

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