Canisius’ comeback effort low blowed, Fairfield advances
It was hard enough for No. 7 seed Canisius to make a comeback against No. 2 Fairfield at the MAAC Tournament. They were down by as many as 22 points and had a limited bench to give the starters rest.
It didn’t help when the team lost its best player to ejection with 5:09 remaining during an impressive comeback effort.
After falling behind Canisius 9-4 early on, the Fairfield Stags took care of the Golden Griffins in the first half and held a more than comfortable 35-14 lead heading into the locker room.
But the tides turned in the second half as Canisius started making its shots and began stopping Fairfield’s offense. An Elton Frazier dunk with 9:13 left brought the Griffs within six points at 45-39. Momentum was theirs.
But with 5:09 left, Canisius guard Frank Turner, who finished with 15 points, was caught low blowing Fairfield’s Derrick Needham and was rejected after a referee deliberation.
The refs’ decision also rejected Canisius’ comeback effort as the Griffs lost all momentum and fell by a score of 67-57.
“Right, wrong or indifferent, [the ejection] stopped us right in our tracks,” said Canisius head coach Tom Perrotta. “We had momentum at the time, but that was all taken away.”
Fairfield (21-9) should also get credit for the stopping momentum as well. The Stags did all it could do to keep Canisius (15-17) out of reach. Needham, the MAAC Rookie of the year, and Anthony Johnson led the Stags. Needham finished with 29 points and hit many timely baskets to withstand the Canisius comeback. Johnson dominated on the post against the smaller Griffins, scoring 16 points while totaling 7 rebounds.
Despite the two stars’ effort, Fairfield head coach Ed Cooley was not happy with his team’s effort in the second half. Perrotta and the Golden Griffins made adjustments and took Fairfield out of rhythm.
“Derrick put a cape on and became Superman for a 4-5 minute stand, but I didn’t think we played smart defensively,” Cooley said. “If we can clean up those things it’s going to give us an opportunity to continue to advance.”
Needham didn’t believe Turner’s low blow was on purpose.
“I told the refs I didn’t think it was an intentional foul because he came over and helped me up,” Needham said.
Regardless, Fairfield advances and will play the winner of the Iona-Niagara quarterfinal matchup.
“Anytime you’re in tournament play, the name of the game is, ‘however you win, win,’” Cooley said.