On Sunday, Feb. 26 the Stags hosted their final home game of the season at Alumni Hall. Not only was it the season finale for the Stags, but it was also senior day as the seniors Casey Smith, Kelsey Carey and Kristine Miller were honored before Sunday’s game for their dedication to Fairfield basketball.

The trio of Smith, Carey and Miller lead the Stags to a 53-49 victory over Metro Atlantic Athletic Conference foe Rider. In their four years at Fairfield University, these seniors have exemplified what it means to represent Stags basketball and this past Sunday was just the topping on the cake as they came together for one final team win.

“It means everything, you get kids who spend four years with you, play a lot of games here. You want their lasting memory of their final time on this court to be going out on a win and to do it over a really, really outstanding team like Rider adds something to that,” said head coach Joe Frager following Sunday’s victory.

Sunday’s game got off to a slow start for both teams as they struggled to get past their opponent’s defense. Through six minutes of play in the first quarter, both Rider and Fairfield were only able to muster up a total of 10 points between the two. Rider finished the first quarter leading 11-5.

When asked about the team’s early woes Frager said, “I thought our energy level and our defense was really outstanding so luckily even though we struggled on offense for the first five, six minutes we kind of held them down until we got our rhythm there in the second and third quarter.”

Just four minutes into the second quarter, the Stags started to find their groove on offense behind the play of Smith and Carey who added a combined 13 points in the quarter, surpassing the points the Stags scored in the first quarter. With 5:29 left in the first half, Carey drove to the rim and connected on a layup to tie the game at 16. Junior Samantha Cooper followed up by knocking down a three-pointer to give the Stags their first lead of the game at 19-16. The rest of the half would be all Stags as they would continue to play well on both ends of the court scoring a total of 21 points while limiting Rider’s offense to 12 points on the quarter. Fairfield went into the half leading 26-23, as Carey led all scorers with nine points.

Senior Casey Smith posed nine points while grabbing four rebounds on her Senior Day. Alfredo Torres/The Mirror

Coming out of the half, Rider seemed to be determined to get back into the game as they went on a 7-0 run to take a one-point lead over the Stags at 30-29 with 3:03 remaining in the third quarter. After some early struggles to start the half, the Stags bounced back to take the lead and would go on a 7-0 run of their own to close out the third quarter up 37-30.

“I think it’s becoming a trend with us, we’ve really been able to come together recently and withstand the ups and downs of the game,” said Carey on the Stags effort to regain the lead.

Midway through the final quarter of play, the Stags held their biggest lead of the game with a 10-point advantage. But Rider would not quit, with plenty of time remaining in the game the Broncs made a valiant comeback cutting Fairfield’s lead down to two at 51-49 with less than 30 seconds left in regulation.

The season final would come all the way down to the wire; with just a two point lead the Stags held possession of the ball as Carey drove to the rim but failed to connect. Luckily for the Stags, Carey was there to catch the offensive rebound as she put it right back up to seal the give the Stags the four point advantage.

With 1.5 seconds left in the game, Rider had one final opportunity on offense but failed to connect on the shot. The Stags sneaked out of Alumni Hall with their 16th and final win of the season over Rider 53-39 on Senior Day.

“A win alone would have been great but just the fact that it’s senior day, it’s that next level of emotion. Knowing that I’ll never play here again and coming out getting a win against a very good team means the world,” said Carey on her final win at Alumni.

With the season now over, the Stags can look forward to the Metro Atlantic Athletic Conference Championship this weekend.

“It’s tournament time and anybody can beat anybody. As a coach, you don’t even worry about what the matchup is you just want your team to go out there and do the little things [like] rebound the ball, not turning over and just play team basketball and keep their composure,” said Frager as he looks to lead his team to a MAAC Championship.

After finishing the season with a 13-7 conference record, the Stags have earned the third seed in the MAAC. Fairfield will await the winner of the first round matchup between sixth-seeded Marist and 11th-seeded Saint Peter’s to decide their quarterfinal matchup on Saturday, March 4 at noon in Albany, N.Y.


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