First-year coach leads Canisius to Big Dance

Updated: March 7, 2005, 6:03 PM ET
Associated Press

BUFFALO, N.Y. -- Becky Zak hit two free throws with 5.3 seconds left to give Canisius a 60-59 win over Marist in the Metro Atlantic Athletic Conference championship Saturday, clinching the first NCAA Tournament berth for the Golden Griffins.

Zak scored 12 points and Jessie Lamparski added 11 for Canisius (21-9), which won its first conference tournament title since joining the league in 1989.

It was payback for the Golden Griffins, who lost last year's title game to Marist 76-74. And it was a big turnaround for Zak, the junior point guard, who missed a potential game-tying shot at the buzzer in that game.

Fifi Camara led Marist with 16 points and 10 rebounds. Kristin Keller also scored 16.

The Red Foxes (22-7) had a 16-game winning streak snapped, and missed a chance to become the sixth team to repeat as MAAC champions. Their streak had been the fourth longest in the nation, behind Gonzaga (23), Temple (22) and Stanford (17).

The game featured eight lead changes, six in the second half. Canisius went ahead for good, 55-54, when Lamparski hit a 3-pointer with 1:45 remaining.

Up 58-56 after Lamparski hit one of two free throws with 18.6 seconds left, the Golden Griffins got the ball back after forcing a turnover in their own end.

Zak denied Alisa Kresge's pass attempt into the paint, jumping on the ball and drawing a foul. Zak then hit both free throws.

Kresge hit a 3-pointer at the buzzer to account for the final score.

After a moment's hesitation, the Golden Griffins ran onto the court to celebrate.

Camara was the most emotional of the Red Foxes, burying her head in her arms on the bench.

Camara was a force in the second half, shrugging off early foul troubles which limited her to just seven minutes -- and a 1-of-6 shooting performance and two points -- in the first half.

Down 32-24 at halftime, Camara scored eight points during a 16-8 Marist run to open the second half that tied the score at 40.

Canisius was only the fifth team to score 60 or more points against Marist this year.

The win came in Terry Zeh's first year as head coach, taking over after Mike Decillis retired after last season.

Copyright 2005 by The Associated Press