The Fairfield women’s basketball team defeated the University of Alabama at Birmingham and Texas A&M Corpus Christi this past weekend to claim the Emerald Beach Hotel Islander Classic title.
Fairfield began their season by defeating the Blazers of UAB 59-54 on Saturday. The contest truly was a game of runs, as each team went on runs that kept the game close throughout. The Stags used an 11-0 run to start the game, sparked by a three-pointer in the first minute from Felicia DaCruz ‘15.
The teams then traded 7-0 runs, first by UAB then Fairfield, giving the Stags the 18-7 lead. Fairfield would hold onto the lead, heading into halftime up nine at 28-19.
The Stags came out from the locker room and extended their lead to 16 on a bucket by Brittany Obi-Tabot ‘14, good for two of her nine points on the afternoon. The Blazers would not falter however, scoring 18 of the next 22 points, cutting Fairfield’s lead to just two points with eight minutes to play.
Sophomore Kristin Schatzlein, who scored 10 points in the first start of her collegiate career, drained a three-pointer to stop the run at the moment, but UAB battled on to take the 46-44 lead.
The Stags responded with a 10-0 run over the next four minutes, giving Fairfield the 54-46 lead. The Blazers refused to go away however, making it a one-possession game with 27 seconds remaining. But two free throws by Alexys Vazquez ’14 sealed the win, sending the Stags to the finals against the host team of Texas A&M Corpus Christi.
Fairfield once again started hot out of the gates against the Islanders, getting an early 8-0 advantage. The Stags held onto that lead going into halftime, leading 28-18.
For the only time all weekend, Fairfield was not the team coming out hot to start the half, as Texas A&M Corpus Christi came out on an 11-0 run to take the lead. The Stags did not falter, as they methodically regained control of the game, building as much as an eight point lead with just under four minutes remaining after a three pointer by Vazquez, who finished with 20 points to lead Fairfield.
The Islanders had a chance to tie the game with free throws or a three-pointer with 14 seconds left in the game, but could not convert, yielding the game and the title to Fairfield.
Forward Katie Cizynski ‘14 won Tournament MVP honors, as she led the Stags averaging 16 points in the two games.
While Cizynski and Vazquez, who was named to the all-tournament team, led the team in scoring for the two days, one surprise was the play of freshman Kristine Miller, who finished with 11 points and nine rebounds in the game on Sunday, narrowly missing a double-double in her second collegiate game. Fellow freshman Kelsey Carey scored her first points of her career, connecting on a jumper in the first half.
The team’s win over UAB marked the sixth time in seven years that Head Coach Joe Frager has won the season opener with Fairfield, and improves his all-time mark in season openers to 14-2.
The last time the Fairfield women’s basketball team started their season with two straight victories, the team won 24 games and finished second in the conference en route to the team’s first WNIT appearance.