This time, the St. Joe’s Marauders had an answer.

After dropping a pair of games in the regular season to arch-rival Canisius, the Marauders turned the tables Sunday, downing the Crusaders 78-68 to advance to the Manhattan Cup final.

“We were ready to play,” St. Joe’s coach Mark Simon said. “A couple of our seniors hadn’t beaten Canisius in anything this year. We talked about how special it would be for them to win against their arch-rival and they all answered the call.”

That was especially true of the Marauders’ Big Three — Phil Maiarana, Phil Scaffidi and Matt Spitler. Each took turns hitting big shots, but it was Maiarana’s performance in the third quarter that dazzled a packed crowd at the Koessler Athletic Center.

After St. Joe’s led by as many as 17 in the first half, Canisius began to chip away at the lead. An 11-2 run by the Crusaders to open the third quarter tied the game at 34. The teams then exchanged buckets before Maiarana took over. The 5-foot-9 point guard scored six straight points to give St. Joe’s a 42-36 lead.

“They’re a good basketball team. We knew they were going to make a run, fortunately we answered,” Simon said. “Any time anybody is making a run, the only answer is to make one yourself.”

Maiarana had a game-high 22 points, 11 of which came in the third.

“He didn’t take any bad shots,” Simon said. “He made good decisions and decided he was going to take it on his shoulders when he had to.”

Scaffidi and Spitler then took over in the final quarter. With Canisius within five, Scaffidi hit his first 3-pointer to stretch the lead to 56-48. A couple minutes later he connected on another trey to give St. Joe’s a 63-50 lead.

Canisius, though, wouldn’t go away. A 3-pointer from Sean Brady cut the St. Joe’s lead to 67-62, but Spitler answered right back with a 3 of his own on the next possession.

“(Give) a lot of credit to their seniors,” Canisius coach Kyle Husband said. “They stepped up and made huge plays whenever they needed.”

Scaffidi and Spitler, each of whom finished with 19 points, combined to go 8-for-10 from the free-throw line down the stretch to cement the win.

Anthony Ragusa led all Canisius (18-7 overall) scorers with 19 points. Pat Wilson added 16, while Justin Young finished with 15.

St. Joe’s (18-8) will meet No. 1-seed Nichols (24-2) at 3 p.m. Saturday for the Manhattan Cup. The Marauders are one of just two teams to beat Nichols this season.

n NOTES: The scoreboard at the Koessler Athletic Center provided those who arrived late plenty of confusion, as St. Joe’s total was listed under Canisius, as in the collegiate Golden Griffins. … Former Kenmore West coach Dick Harvey took in the game from behind the St. Joe’s bench.

Contact editor Jay Skurski at 693-1000, ext. 117.