Fairfield Stags Use Resiliency To Make MAAC Championship

Ari KramerSenior Analyst IIMarch 7, 2010

Resilience is defined as the ability to readily recover from illness, depression, adversity, or the like. However, the 2009-10 Fairfield Men's Basketball team would probably be a more suitable definition to MAAC followers.

Look back to the middle of last year when Anthony Johnson learned that his constant chest pains were a result of a life-threatening blood clot. The 6'8" center recuperated and was named the 2009-10 MAAC Defensive Player of the Year.

In the beginning of this season, the ambiguous statuses of essential players Greg Nero and Warren Edney raised questions about Fairfield's potential.

Could the Stags be successful without their senior leader, and another crucial piece to their 2008-09 puzzle? Would the Stags have anyone capable of stepping up?

Well, those questions have certainly been answered.

Fairfield placed second in the MAAC with a 13-5 league record without Nero and Edney logging a single minute. The Stags have even won seven of nine since Yorel Hawkins, who was averaging 14.6 points per game, suffered a season-ending knee injury.

In response to the second question, two words will suffice: Derek Needham. The freshman from Dalton, Ill. put the Stags on his back, averaging 16.3 points and 5.3 assists per game. 

So when Bilal Benn extended Niagara's lead over Fairfield to seven with 7:16 remaining in tonight's MAAC Semifinal, Stag fans did not lose faith. Their team had overcome worse adversities.

Seven minutes and one 18-5 run later, Fairfield had booked a date with Siena in tomorrow night's MAAC Championship.

Should Fairfield fall to the regular season champs, the Stags would most likely receive an invitation to the NIT. But, there's no reason to say Fairfield doesn't stand a chance of preventing Siena from its coveted three-peat. 

Siena defeated Fairfield by eight in Connecticut, but the Stags nearly ended Siena's longstanding home win streak a few weeks later in a two-point loss. No other team came closer than six against the Saints at the Times Union Center. 

Siena's home court advantage is apparent, but Fairfield knows it can compete in Albany. 

With Anthony Johnson and Ryan Olander, the Stags have a frontcourt capable of defending and scoring against Siena's bigs. Fairfield also shoots well from beyond the arc, and Siena struggles to defend the three.

If Fairfield wins the MAAC Championship, the Stags will give a new meaning to the word "resilience." 

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Photo from Fairfield Mirror