The conference championships are what college basketball teams long for all year in their quest to reach the coveted NCAA March Madness Tournament. For the Fairfield Stags Men’s Basketball Team winning the Metro Atlantic Athletic Conference would have been a way to secure a spot in the tournament. Their first test was on March 13th, 2024, against the Iona Gaels. Even though the Gaels were a seven seed in the MAAC Tournament they had beaten Fairfield twice in the regular season so it wouldn’t be a walk in the park. 

The first half was close as the Stags were only up three but when Senior Guard Jalen Leach started to light up the scoreboard there was no stopping him. Leach scored 15 of his game-high 22 points after halftime and Caleb Fields added 20 to push Fairfield University Men’s Basketball past Iona, 68-63, in the MAAC Championship Quarterfinals on Wednesday evening at Boardwalk Hall in Atlantic City, New Jersey. 

  With the win, Fairfield improved to 21-11. Seventh-seeded Iona wraps up its 2023-24 campaign at 16-17. The win snaps a seven-game losing streak for the Stags against the Gaels and marks Fairfield’s first postseason win over Iona since 2012. 

  Leach’s 22 points came on 8-for-16 shooting from the floor and a 6-for-6 day at the free throw line. The All-MAAC First Team selection also hauled eight rebounds and had four of Fairfield’s 11 steals. Fields’ 20 points included two three-pointers to move into second place on the Stags’ single-season list with 96 made triples this season. He also pulled in seven boards with two assists and two steals.

MAAC Sixth Player of the Year Brycen Goodine ‘24 came off the bench and contributed nine points and five rebounds. Graduate student Alexis Yetna made his first start as a Stag and finished with seven points and five boards in 31 minutes of work. 

For Iona, Jeremiah Quigley led with 14 points and 10 rebounds, and Joel Brown added 13. 

The next test for the Stags was against Marist who had recently beaten Fairfield 58-55 on March 1, 2024. Marist is known for their strong defensive play led by the Sophomore Center Max Allen II. 

This game showed the tenacity and resilience of the Stags as they were faced with a 57-48 deficit with 9:44 left in the second half of the MAAC Championship Semifinals. Fairfield held Marist to just one field goal for the remainder of the game flipping the nine-point deficit to a 65-61 win. 

  With the win, the Stags advanced to the MAAC Championship Game for the first time since 2021 in search of the program’s first conference title since 1997. Their record improves to 22-11 on the season while Marist, who reached the MAAC Championship Game last season, slips to 18-13. 

  Fields paced the Stage scoring 22 points, his second consecutive 20-point game in the tournament, and Jalen Leach scored all 13 of his points after halftime. Peyton Smith ‘27 provided a spark off the bench with nine points, with Jasper Floyd ‘25 adding eight and Yetna netting six. 

Marist was led by 14 points from Javon Cooley, who shot 4-for-4 from three-point range in the first half. Max Allen II added 12 points and Jadin Collins scored 10.

The 2024 MAAC Championship Game tipped off from Jim Whelan Boardwalk Hall in Atlantic City against the Saint Peter’s Peacocks. 

March Madness is the greatest show in sports and for the Fairfield Stags, the only thing that stood in their way was the Saint Peter’s Peacocks. The Peacocks were unknown before the 2022 NCAA March Madness Tournament but their Cinderella story that got them to the Elite Eight will go down in history as one of the best runs of all time. They are the only 15-seed to make the Elite Eight and now everyone knows their name. 

The Stags have matched up well against Saint Peter’s this year, having defeated the Peacocks at Mahoney Arena on Jan. 19 and in Jersey City on Feb. 10. The Peacocks were 18-13 on the season after upsetting top-seeded Quinnipiac, 62-60, on a buzzer-beater in Friday’s first semifinal matchup. 

The story of this game was Corey Washington who dominated the second half of the contest. Washington scored 20 of his 24 points in the second half to rally fifth-seeded Saint Peter’s to a 68-63 victory over No. 2 seed Fairfield in the championship game of the MAAC Tournament on Saturday night, earning the Peacocks a spot in the NCAA Tournament. 

The main reason why the Stags weren’t able to defeat the Peacocks was likely their 3-point and FG percentages. The Stags shot 5-25 (25%) from beyond the arc and Peacocks shot 6-13 (46.2%) from three. As for field goals, Fairfield went 23-65 (35.4%) and Saint Peter’s went 23-44 (52.3%). It is difficult to win when there is as big a difference in shooting percentage as there was in this game. Typically, the Stags are the ones running up the scoreboard and have great shooting splits, but they just didn’t have it against Saint Peter’s. 

Caleb Fields totaled 17 points, nine rebounds, and five assists to pace Fairfield (22-12). Alexis Yetna added 12 points and 10 rebounds, while Brycen Goodine scored 10 off the bench.

As unfortunate as it is for the Stags to miss March Madness, they had a tremendous season with an overall record of 22-12. Even though the Stags are out of the NCAA Tournament, they have qualified for the CBI Tournament. They are the 7-seed and will take on Little Rock on March 24, 2024, at the Ocean Center in Daytona Beach, Florida. 

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