Amani Tatum and Manhattan face Marist in Jaspers' first MAAC tournament quarterfinal appearance since 2013. (Photo courtesy of Manhattan College Athletics)
Fresh off their opening-round victory over Saint Peter's on Thursday, Manhattan women's basketball is represented in the quarterfinals of the Metro Atlantic Athletic Conference tournament for the first time since 2013, as the sixth-seeded Jaspers (15-15) face No. 3 seed Marist (15-15) on Saturday at noon, with the winner to face either Iona or Siena in the semifinals.
"We certainly needed that," head coach John Olenowski said of Thursday's 60-43 win, one in which Manhattan allowed just 17 points after halftime and committed only six turnovers the entire game. "We felt that if we could really play great defense, we'd have a great shot of winning this particular basketball game."
Against a Marist team that has dominated the MAAC in recent memory, winning ten conference championships in the last twelve years, the Jaspers will need another exceptional effort to keep pace with Brian Giorgis and the Red Foxes, who have maintained their standing among the conference's upper echelon while dealing with early-season adversity. Of significance for Manhattan is that second-leading scorer Nyasha Irizarry will be ready to play after making her return from an ankle injury in the Saint Peter's game.
"Nyasha is slowly getting back," said Olenowski of his sophomore sharpshooter. "She was able to get a few minutes out there. We want to be able to keep everybody healthy and then have them pick their spots, and that's what we kind of did with her. She will be ready for Saturday, and so will Shayna Ericksen."
The additions of Irizarry, and especially Ericksen, give Manhattan extra depth to combat the efficiency of Tori Jarosz, Marist's sixth-year senior who averages nearly 19 points and 12 rebounds per game in a season where she is a strong contender for MAAC Player of the Year honors. Expect to see Kayla Grimme matched up with Jarosz inside as well in a contest that the Jaspers' coach still believes is a favorable one for his team despite the long history of Marist success in March.
"I like our chances, I really do," Olenowski admitted, having already defeated the Red Foxes at McCann Arena this season. "As good as they are and with all their championships, this group we have is, in my mind, very, very special, and I think we have to components to really play with them on Saturday."