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Saint Peter's beats Fairfield 68-63 to win MAAC tourney, earn berth in NCAA Tournament

ATLANTIC CITY, N.J. (AP) — Corey Washington scored 20 of his 24 points in the second half to rally fifth-seeded Saint Peter's to a 68-63 victory over No. 2 seed Fairfield in the championship game of the Metro Atlantic Athletic Conference Tournament on Saturday night, earning the Peacocks an automatic spot in the NCAA Tournament.

Washington made 9 of 14 shots from the floor — 7 of 8 after halftime — but just 6-of-13 free throws for the Peacocks (19-13), who dropped their final two regular-season games to Rider and Quinnipiac before avenging the losses in the first two rounds of the tourney. He added nine rebounds and blocked four shots.

Roy Clarke had 12 points off the bench for Saint Peter's on 4-for-5 shooting with two 3-pointers. The Peacocks shot 72.2% from the floor in the second half (13 for 18), including 3 of 4 from beyond the arc. They made 14 of 21 at the foul line.

Caleb Fields totaled 17 points, nine rebounds and five assists to pace Fairfield (22-12). Alexis Yetna added 12 points and 10 rebounds, while Brycen Goodine scored 10 off the bench.

Yetna had 10 points and eight rebounds to guide Fairfield to a 32-25 advantage at halftime. The Stags took a 10-7 lead on Jasper Floyd's 3-pointer at the 14:10 mark and led all the way to the break.

A 3-pointer from Louis Bleechmore followed by a layup from Jalen Leach gave Fairfield a 39-29 lead just 2:35 into the second half. The Stags stayed in front until Michael Houge followed a Brent Bland 3-pointer with a bucket, putting the Peacocks ahead 42-41 with 11:30 remaining.

Saint Peter's led by nine at the 3:47 mark, but Goodine's layup and hook shot capped an 8-0 spurt and Fairfield trailed 61-60 with 1:19 to go. Washington went 4 for 4 at the foul line as the Peacocks sank 7 of 8 to hold off the Stags.

Fairfield has not won the MAAC since 1997. The Stags reached the final after it held Marist without a basket for nearly 10 minutes in the second half, turning a nine-point deficit into a 65-61 victory in the semifinals.

Saint Peter's won the MAAC Tournament and the automatic bid to the NCAA Tournament four previous times, most recently in 2022 when the Peacocks advanced to the Elite Eight for the first time.

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