Women’s Basketball Heartbreaking Loss in MAAC Championships

By Caroline McCarthy, Sports Editor

The Jaspers had a lot more than luck on their side in Atlantic City last week. In their first MAAC Championship appearance since 2003, the women’s basketball team did not claim the title, but still made history in a hard-fought 73-68 loss to first seed Fairfield. 

“That’s what a championship game should look like,” said the Jaspers’ head coach Heather Vulin. “Both teams made a championship effort but at the end of the day, Fairfield made a few more plays than we did, but I really feel my team fought for the entire forty minutes and I’m really proud of them.”

The Jaspers, seeded number three at the start of the championships, played two games prior to their championship appearance. In their first MAAC Championships tournament game against Canisius on Thursday, March 10, the Jaspers maintained a steady offensive lead and took the 61-49 victory over the Griffs.

With only three minutes left in the game, junior Dee Dee Davis hit a three-point shot that sent the crowd into uproar. Davis looked to her fan section, and appeared to signal for them to settle down, blissfully unaware that she had just scored her 1,000th career point. When the announcer shared the news with the crowd, Davis was overcome with emotion and looked up to thank God and her family in the stands. 

The win sent the Jaspers to the semi finals against rival Quinnipiac. Earlier this season the Jaspers lost to the Bobcats in a close 72-65 game, and later regained victory with an eventful 73-69 overtime win on March 2nd.

The Jaspers came out on fire, securing a 10-4 lead early on. Key players Dee Dee Davis and Brazil Harvey-Carr continued the lead to 27-14 by the end of the first quarter with three-point shots and effortless layups. The Jaspers continued to battle with Quinnipiac, who frequently narrowed the gap but could not pull ahead. 

Manhattan left Quinnipiac discouraged in the fourth quarter. After a long fought battle, the Bobcats seemed to realize their fate in the final minutes and allowed their defense to fumble, leading Manhattan to their 75-59 victory.

Manhattan fans stormed the court as the Jaspers realized they were headed to the championships. Though the outcome was not the Cinderella story the Jaspers were hoping for, the game showed grit and perseverance on both sides. 

“This was a big deal for us,” said Jasper center Courtney Warley. “Coming into this program we’ve just been on a positive uptrend. This was our first championship with Coach V (Vulin) here as the head coach and with these players on this team – we are proud that we made it this far and I have complete faith in the direction of this team that they’ll be here again next year.”

The Jaspers held a lead over Fairfield in the first half, finishing the first quarter 17-8 and 31-26 at the half. Davis carried the offense with a motif of three point shots that began early in the first quarter, and continued until the very last seconds. 

Fairfield tied the game at 33 in the third quarter. The leading team fluctuated six times throughout the second half, with no team fully out playing the other. The teams were tied at 47 as they entered the final quarter, both eager to be victorious. 

The Fairfield Stags pulled ahead at the start of the fourth, scoring 8 points to secure their 55-47 lead. The Jaspers shared a look of defeat before Coach Vulin called a time out to reset. After this, the Jaspers came out with the same fire they had started the game with. 

Davis continued her three-point motif and scored 17 points in the last 5 minutes of play, but even her extraordinary efforts were not enough for the Jasper win. The score stayed 71-68 with less than ten seconds left, but Fairfield would claim a 73-68 victory on free throws. 

“My teammates were phenomenal at getting the ball and trusting in me,” Davis said. “We didn’t get the outcome we were hoping for, but we’ll be back.”

Both Davis and Warley were named to the all-tournament team for their performance in the championships. Davis had a career-high 35 points and two assists while Warely contributed 12 points and 13 rebounds. This game marks the end of Warley’s career at Manhattan College, along with fellow seniors Sini Mäkelä and Sydney Watkins. 

Warley credited this accomplishment to the players who came before them, specifically the 2020-2021 team. 

“I really try to play for all the girls who graduated last year because they really helped grow this program with me and with the coaches to what it is today. But I think the newcomers like the freshmen and the transfers have done a great job and really embraced what we are trying to do here,” Warley said. 

“I’m just incredibly grateful that Sini and Courtney could come back. They’re our two super seniors, and obviously Syd is a real senior,” Vulin said. “These seniors are the foundation. We get back here next year and we win it? They’re a part of the win. When I say ‘play green’ like everything we do is a championship effort – I cannot think of three kids who embody that better than these three.”