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Iona women earn first NCAA Tournament bid with MAAC title win

Iona players celebrate their win over Quinnipiac

Iona players celebrate their win over Quinnipiac in the Metro Atlantic Athletic Conference tournament on Monday, March 7, 2016, in Albany. Credit: AP / Mike Groll

ALBANY — Marina Lizarazu scored 19 points and Joy Adams added 11 points and 13 rebounds Monday to help Iona earn its first NCAA Tournament appearance with a 57-41 victory over Quinnipiac in the Metro Atlantic Athletic Conference championship game.

The Gaels had reached the MAAC title game three times, but lost each one to Marist. After defeating the Red Foxes in the semifinals, second-seeded Iona beat top-seeded Quinnipiac to end the Bobcats’ 19-game winning streak.

The teams played eight days ago and Quinnipiac came away with a 16-point win to take the regular-season crown. The Bobcats were missing leading scorer Maria Napolitano. The senior guard, who averaged 10.7 points, injured a knee ligament in the team’s semifinal victory.

With the score 15-15, Iona took over. Lewis hit a 3-pointer to start a 14-2 run. The freshman added another 3 and a layup. The Gaels (23-11) led 29-19 at the half. They extended the lead to 35-22 in the third quarter before Quinnipiac (24-8) rallied.

The Bobcats scored 10 of the next 11 points to pull to 36-32, with Adily Martucci hitting two 3-pointers during the burst. That’s as close as the Bobcats got. After an Iona timeout, the Gaels scored the final five points of the quarter to lead 41-32 entering the last period. The lead grew to 44-32 early in the final period, and Quinnipiac could only get within eight the rest of the way.

As the final seconds ran down the Gaels started to celebrate. Iona has a chance to have both its basketball teams in the NCAAs — the Gaels play Monmouth for the men’s title Monday night. Martucci scored 12 points and Aryn McClure added 11 for Quinnipiac, which was trying to make the NCAAs for the third time in four seasons.

TIP-INS

Iona: Adams has 81 career double-doubles which is fifth in NCAA history. ... Iona had lost in the MAAC finals in 2007, 2008 and 2013.

Quinnipiac: Since the 2011-12 season, the Bobcats are 128-38 (.771) — the second most wins and second-best winning percentage for any team in New England. They trail only UConn. ... The Bobcats have played in the MAAC finals all three years they’ve been in the conference. They won last season and lost in 2014.

UP NEXT

Iona: NCAA Tournament.

Quinnipiac: NIT.

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