Peter Caty/The Mirror

The Fairfield University men’s basketball team has enjoyed arguably the best season in the program’s history.

They are one win away from a school record and enter the 2011 Spark Energy MAAC Championship tournament as the number one seed.

They earned the top position after clinching the regular season crown for the first time in 25 years.

For the past three seasons, the Stags and all other teams in the MAAC have looked up to the Siena Saints, winners of three straight championships.  Fairfield fell to the dominant Saints in Albany in last year’s final in overtime.

This year the Stags will try to start a new era.  This one highlighted by Fairfield playing the ‘top dog’ role.

The Stags met the defending champions on Friday at the Webster Bank Arena at Harbor Yard.  This is the same location where the 2011 tournament will be held: hosted by Fairfield.

The two programs are heading in different directions.  Fairfield head coach Ed Cooley resurrected a team that was an afterthought in any serious discussions, to a favorite in the tournament and a squad who can reach even higher destinations than last year.

Siena’s program is coming off arguably the best three year run in conference history.  They advanced to the NCAA tournament in each year, and managed to pull off upsets while becoming a national story.

However, those years seem to be memories in the past.  They enter the tournament as the seven seed and will have to participate in a play-in game.  Next year’s Siena’s roster looks even bleaker as they lose two of their star seniors.

In front of a season high 5,287 fans, the Stags earned well-deserved revenge and defeated the one time jewel of the conference.  The attendance was the third largest in the history of the Arena in Bridgeport.

The seniors, who were fueled by the energy of the crowd in their last regular season home game, saved a good performance for their finale.  Yorel Hawkins, Lyndon Jordan, and Warren Edney totaled 31 of the team’s 68 points with Hawkins leading the way with 13.

Hawkins, who was recently named to the All-MAAC Third team, led the Stags in scoring and is 6 points away from reaching the 1,000 point plateau.

After struggling in the early part of the season, Lyndon Jordan has become a vital man off the bench, especially from behind the arc.  The Georgia native went 3-4 from three-point land and will be look to be a big contributor from behind the arc in the tournament.

The dream of this unit going into the season was to win the MAAC Championship.  They are only three games away from making that dream come true.

Coach Cooley has continuously said that this is not a team made up of one superstar. Rather, they are a group of good players who have great chemistry on the court – and they have had contributions throughout their entire lineup.

Four different Stags were named to All-MAAC Teams including: Maurice Barrow, who has a shot at winning the Rookie of the Year Award, Yorel Hawkins, Ryan Olander, (Made All-MAAC second team and someone who has gained the strength needed to be a big presence in the middle). And of course, their sophomore leader and captain Derek Needham.

Even though they are a 20-win team, all those records are erased and the slate is new.

It all comes down to three days in Bridgeport.

They have already dethroned the former MAAC giant Siena, and will try to start a new era, with the Stags being the king of the conference.

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