Granite State pair key for Women's Division I NCAA contender
If the Marist College women's basketball team finds itself in need of a 3-pointer during its NCAA Tournament game against Iowa tonight, the Red Foxes know who they want to have the basketball.
Exeter's Madeline Blais, a sophomore forward, enters the tournament shooting a team-best 48 percent (61 of 127) from behind the 3-point arc. Blais made five 3-pointers in a game twice this season, and was ranked among the top three 3-point shooters in NCAA Division I women's basketball for five consecutive weeks.
"I'm listed as a guard/forward, but I'm really a shooter," Blais said. "I'm a 3-point shooter."
Marist, a No. 11 seed, earned the program's ninth-consecutive trip to the NCAA tournament by winning the Metro Atlantic Athletic Conference tournament. Marist (27-6) will face sixth-seeded Iowa (26-8) at Iowa's Carver-Hawkeye Arena in a game that's scheduled to begin at 8 p.m. this evening
Blais, who spent three seasons at Exeter High School before transferring to the New Hampton School, appeared in each of Marist's 33 games (32 starts) and made the All-MAAC Second Team. She'll enter today's game ranked second in team scoring (13.0 points per game) and fourth in rebounding (4.1 rpg).
"I love being the underdog," Blais said. "I love being rooted against. We've been our best away from home this season. It won't be easy, but if we play well we can come out of there with a win."
Blais is one of two New Hampshire residents on the Marist roster, joining 6-foot-2 forward Kat Fogarty of Peterborough. Fogarty played for ConVal Regional in Peterborough as a freshman, and then spent the next three seasons at The Governor's Academy in Byfield, Mass. She averaged 20 points and 12 rebounds per game during those three years in prep school.
Fogarty is a bit of a rarity at Marist: She's a freshman who plays significant minutes. Fogarty has appeared in 29 games and is averaging 14.3 minutes of playing time and 4.7 points per contest.
"I've always dreamed of playing in the NCAA Tournament," Fogarty said. "I've watched it since I was young - more the men, but then the women when I started playing. I'm so excited to be a part of it."
The highlight of Fogarty's season may have come in December, when she was named the MAAC Rookie of the Week following solid performances in victories over Northeastern and Oklahoma.
Another highlight came much earlier in her freshman season, when she "upset" Blais in a game of H-O-R-S-E.
"I beat her the first time I played her," Fogarty said. "I went first and just didn't miss. That's the key against her. You can't miss more than once. I've never seen a more pure shooter than she is."
Blais: "For her to beat me she had to have the game of her life."
Marist enters the tournament having won nine in a row, and 16 of 17. It's the program's 10th appearance in the NCAA Tournament. The 2007 Marist team became the first MAAC representative (men or women) to reach the Sweet 16. Marist advanced by beating Ohio State and Middle Tennessee State that season.
Fogarty and Blais both said the appeal of playing in the NCAA Tournament was among the reasons they chose to attend Marist.
"I didn't know anything about Marist," said Fogarty, who also considered William & Mary, Boston University and the University of New Hampshire. "Then I saw how good they were for a mid-major. The winning tradition is initially what got me hooked."
Blais whittled her college options to Providence College and Marist.
"Marist has a winning program, and I don't know too many athletes who like to lose," Blais said. "It's a small school, but basketball-wise it's better than a lot of the bigger schools out there."