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Pickett’s buzzer-beater shot gives Siena road sweep

POUGHKEEPSIE — Jalen Pickett started the week winning the Metro Atlantic Athletic Conference Player of the Week for the third time this season, and he ended the week hitting a game-winning, buzzer-beater shot.

With three seconds to go in the game, the sophomore point guard hit a jumper on a Manny Camper’s pass to give the Saints a thrilling 52-50 victory over the Marist Red Foxes on Friday night at McCann Arena. It marked their seventh straight victory.

“Coach (Maciariello) drew a great play out of a timeout by having me on a slot,” Pickett said after scoring 14 points and hitting his second game-winning shot ever. “My teammates believed in me.”

After Siena (17-10, 13-5) took a 41-30 lead over Marist (7-20, 6-12), the Red Foxes made their move by going on a 11-3 run to cut their deficit to 44-41. It was as close as it got started, which began with a Siena’s 8-0 run.

Tobias Sjoberg (12 points) hit a jumper to start Marist’s run. Jordan Jones (12 points) made a couple of hook shots, and Michael Cubbage made a layup. After Donald Carey (game-high 16 points) shot a 3-pointer and Matthew Hesame (11 points) missed a jumper, Cubbage executed a jump shot to make this a game that Siena would have to earn after cruising from the start of the game that had them taking a 33-18 halftime lead.

The Saints turned the ball over several times, and at times, they threw the ball out of bounds and missed shots. The Red Foxes sensed opportunity this game could be had with the Saints running on fumes after playing three games in six nights.

Camper hit a jumper, and Carey shot a 3-pointer in response to Marist’s run.

Hersame took control for Marist. He started with a 3-pointer to cut the Saints lead to 49-44. Then, he executed a layup to make it a 49-46 game. He scored a 3-pointer to tie the game at 50, which had the McCann Arena crowd in a frenzy.

Then, it was Pickett taking his time to choreograph his last shot after he received the pass from Camper. His shot stunned Marist fans while Siena fans cheered in jubilation while Pickett’s teammates mobbed him in celebration.

“This team is giving me less hair,” Maciariello said in his opening statement. “We made several turnovers. We held them (Marist) to 18 points in the first half when we should have held them to 15. We came out flat in the second half. We did not pay attention to details. This is the type of game that can make us go home and end our season in the MAAC tournament. It’s tough to execute on the road. I’m glad we dodged a bullet.”

After not shooting 3s in eight attempts in the first half, the Red Foxes shot four 3-pointers in the second half to put them in a position to tie the game.

With the Saints completing a sweep of their three-game road trip, they earned and maintained sole possession of first place in the MAAC with St. Peter’s losing to Niagara 64-53 on Thursday night, and they clinched a two-two seed in the MAAC tournament at Atlantic City in a couple of weeks. They also improved to 4-10 on the road after starting MAAC play winless on the road.

“This group is in a groove,” Maciariello said his team won 10 out of their 11 games. “Our experience is growing. They are applying to the teaching points of the game we are providing as a coaching staff. We continue to grow and get better. It’s a credit to the guys that have taken to the teaching.”

Considering all MAAC games have not been easy as evident to this contest and St. Peter’s loss to Niagara, Maciariello sounded like a proud father.

“These guys realized how hard it is to play on the road,” he said. “It’s a credit to how the MAAC teams play. It’s been a daily process in getting better.”

Siena finishes its season by playing its final home game of the season on Wednesday night (senior night) against Niagara followed by playing its final road game of the season against Monmouth on Friday night.

“We have a lot of work to do,” Maciariello said of his team entering the MAAC tournament the following week.

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