Column: Another game, another hero

The Sweet 16-bound Bobcats seem to produce a different MVP every game

By on March 23, 2017
Team athleticsPhoto Courtesy of Quinnipiac Athletics

Hundreds of Quinnipiac students and members of the local media packed the front steps of TD Bank Sports Center on Wednesday to send off the women’s basketball team to its first Sweet 16 appearance in program history.

Students and faculty crammed together for warmth to fight the bitter cold winds that cut through the crowd during the rally, while head coach Tricia Fabbri addressed Bobcat Nation from a ladder atop a Hamden fire truck.

The shivering crowd responded to Fabbri with the chant of “Sweet Six-teen!”

If the crowd really wanted warmth, they should have huddled near the Bobcats’ shooters, who have been on fire since their MAAC championship run in Albany.

The freezing cold students could have their pick of the litter for a heat source. The Bobcats seem to highlight a different sharpshooter every game, and they believe it can be anybody to catch fire at any time.

“That’s what makes our team so special,” senior Morgan Manz said after the rally. “You have no idea who it’s going to be on any given night, and that makes us tough to defend.”

Manz had the hot hand on Monday as she scorched fourth-seeded Miami for 22 points behind six 3-pointers, which tied a program record. Just days earlier, it was Jen Fay who caught fire with 20 points on 9-16 shooting, including multiple clutch shots down the stretch to seal the program’s first ever NCAA Tournament win. Sophomore Aryn McClure had her turn in the MAAC Championship game against Rider, where she went ballistic from the floor with a career-high 28 points.

It makes you wonder if the team picks out of a hat before the game to determine who will provide the bulk of the offense that night.

The evidence of the Quinnipiac’s widespread offensive attack is in the stats. The Bobcats finished the regular season first in the MAAC in scoring offense, yet boasted only one player in the top 25 in scoring. And that’s just the way Coach Fabbri likes it.

“That’s our identity,” Fabbri said. “Everything runs through everybody… It’s the beauty of this team.”

The box score is beautiful to look at, specifically in its second round win against Miami. Four Quinnipiac starters finished in double figures, while senior Adily Martucci finished with nine points. (I’m sure she is content with her contribution to the win in the form of a clutch triple in the game’s final minute to put the Bobcats up by four.)

The team effort has the Bobcats headed out west to take on South Carolina, the top seed in the Stockton Region, on Saturday. The Gamecocks rank fifth in the nation in defending the 3-point line, but good luck trying to figure out which Bobcat shooter to focus on.

“It’s hard for other teams to have to scout that many people,” Fay said about the team’s plethora of weapons. “Usually there’s one star player to look out for. With us, it’s any given player on any given night.”

The Bobcats also have little trouble finding the hot hand when they’re open. The team finished the regular season tops in the MAAC in assists and currently rank 14th in the nation in that category. The Cinderella slipper seems to fit on the foot of every Bobcat when they’re moving the ball around.

We’ve heard cliches in sports before, sometimes to the point where they’re painful to hear. “The name on the front of the jersey is more important than the one on the back,” or “There’s no ‘I’ in team” are some that come to mind. These cliches are classified as such because of their excessive use. They’re overused because they work. The Bobcats realize that, and it’s paying off.

There’s another teamwork cliche that’s tossed around locker rooms every now and then: “Teamwork makes the dream work.” This could not be more relevant to the Bobcats’ season. Their unselfish brand of basketball has them working on a historic dream that has yet to conclude.

There certainly is no “I” in “team.” There are also no W’s, but the Bobcats have still found a lot of them through their team-first mentality that has them dancing to Stockton.

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