The excitement at Webster Bank Arena traveled throughout the building. Every one of the 1,785 people in the building could tell that Fairfield’s men’s basketball was back to their winning ways. On Senior Day for Marcus Gilbert, Coleman Johnson, Scott King Jr., Mike Kirkland Jr. and Amadou Sidibe, they combined a balanced scoring attack and a stout defensive effort to capture the 76-69 victory over the Siena Saints. Fairfield had five different players reach double figures, led by guard Tyler Nelson ‘18 and forward Matija Milin ‘19 who both chipped in 16 points.
Right from the start, the Stags took control. They scored the first 10 points of the game and entered the under 12 media timeout with an 18-6 lead. Powered by the relentless inside penetration of Jerome Segura ‘18 and defensive effort from Johnson who had four blocks in the half, the Stags eventually took a 39-32 lead into halftime. They shot 54.5 percent from the three and 48.3 percent overall from the field in the first 20 minutes of play.
Once again, the Stags came out firing on all cylinders when the second half began. Numerous players contributed off the bench to give the team quality minutes including Milin, King and Kevin Degnan ‘18 when starting center Jonathan Kasibabu ‘19 was sidelined by foul trouble. A stretch of flashy dunks and pinpoint passes highlighted an exhilarating first eight minutes of the second half as the Stags took a 17-point lead with 11:30 to play, their largest lead of the game.
Although their shooting woes continued as they shot a measly 35.2 percent for the game, Siena refused to go away. They cut the lead to just three, 64-61, with under two minutes to play, but the Stags were able to execute on the offensive end when it truly mattered as they scored five straight points to grab the game 69-61. Gilbert, Kasibabu and Nelson were able to sink critical free throws to subdue a possible Siena comeback and give the Stags their sixth straight win to put them at 18-11 overall, 11-7 in conference play, for the year.
The game delivered an amazing display of team basketball, exactly what head coach Sydney Johnson loves to see. This final home game offered the team an extra incentive to win, as they were eager to send the seniors off on a high note as they played their last game at Webster Bank Arena.
When asked what kind of imprint the seniors have left on the program during their time as Stags, Johnson said, “They have turned the program around. We are playing some of the best basketball we have played here in years and they should be proud of all that they have done and how they have stayed committed to me and the program.”
“It was great playing my last game here at Webster Bank,” Gilbert said. “It was awesome to see all the fans and the parents come watch us play. It is my last home game, but definitely not my last basketball game.”
With one more Metro Atlantic Athletic Conference game to play against St. Peter’s in New Jersey, Gilbert and the Stags look to continue their momentum and stretch the win streak to seven games before they head up to Albany for the conference tournament next weekend. The way this season has progressed, there is much potential for this Fairfield squad to play in March.