ALBANY, N.Y. -- After coming so close three times, Iona is finally headed to the NCAA tournament.
Marina Lizarazu scored 19 points and Joy Adams added 11 points and 13 rebounds Monday to help Iona earn its first NCAA appearance with a 57-41 victory over Quinnipiac in the Metro Atlantic Athletic Conference championship game.
"This is incredible to get one for the program," Iona coach Billi Godsey said. "A lot of hard work has gone into prior to my getting here. We continue to build on the foundation. Tweak it in our own special way. ... A great moment for us."
The Gaels had reached the MAAC title game three times since 2007, but lost each one to Marist. After defeating the Red Foxes in the semifinals, second-seeded Iona beat top-seeded Quinnipiac to end the Bobcats' 19-game winning streak.
"I know this year it's a process and just had to take it day-by-day," Adams said. "You can't take shortcuts where you want to go. This year definitely my team believed in that and came out on top."
The teams played eight days ago and Quinnipiac came away with a 16-point win to take the regular-season crown. Unlike that game, the Bobcats were missing leading scorer Maria Napolitano on Monday. The senior guard, who averaged 10.7 points, injured a knee ligament in the team's semifinal victory.
"Obviously she's been our leading scorer, she's been our rock," Quinnipiac coach Tricia Fabbri said. "We knew that everyone would have to step up. It was tough not to have her in uniform for the biggest game of the year."
With the score 15-15, Iona took over. Alexis Lewis hit a 3-pointer to start a 14-2 run. The freshman added another 3 and a layup. The Gaels (23-11) led 29-19 at the half.
They extended the lead to 35-22 in the third quarter before Quinnipiac (24-8) rallied. The Bobcats scored 10 of the next 11 points to pull to 36-32, with Adily Martucci hitting two 3-pointers during the burst.
That's as close as the Bobcats got. After an Iona timeout, the Gaels scored the final five points of the quarter to lead 41-32 entering the last period. The lead grew to 44-32 early in the final period, and Quinnipiac could only get within eight the rest of the way.
"They made it extra difficult for us to score," Fabbri said. "We made a run at them and they made a big basket out of a timeout."
As the final seconds ran down, the Gaels started to celebrate with Adams hugging Godfrey. Iona has a chance to have both its basketball teams in the NCAAs -- the Gaels play Monmouth for the men's title Monday night.
Martucci scored 12 points and Aryn McClure added 11 for Quinnipiac, which was trying to make the NCAAs for the third time in four seasons.
"Still have a chance to make history with this team," Fabbri said. "We haven't won a postseason game yet. We won't be in the NCAA tournament but will be in the NIT."
Iona: Adams has 81 career double-doubles which is fifth in NCAA history. ... Iona had lost in the MAAC finals in 2007, 2008 and 2013. ... Lizarazu earned MVP honors of the tournament.
Quinnipiac: Since the 2011-12 season, the Bobcats are 128-38 (.771) -- the second most wins and second-best winning percentage for any team in New England. They trail only UConn. ... The Bobcats have played in the MAAC finals all three years they've been in the conference. They won last season and lost in 2014.
Iona: NCAA tournament.
- Michael Schmidt
- Keith Miller
- Kathy Lonergan