By Rob Rose
For the second consecutive season, the women’s basketball team was eliminated in the MAAC Tournament by top-seeded Quinnipiac. The Bobcats defeated the Broncs in the semifinals on March 4, 82-62, and in the 2017 title game.
Rider came out of the gates on fire, opening on a 9-0 run. The Broncs hit their first three shots and forced an early timeout by the defending-champion Bobcats.
“We wanted to make sure everyone knew that we were here to play to start the game,” said Head Coach Lynn Milligan. “Our kids are always ready to go, and they were in attack mode early on.”
Quinnipiac, which went 18-0 in MAAC play, quickly answered with a run of its own, closing the first quarter on a 14-0 spurt. Rider failed to score in the final 6:16 of the quarter, and after 10 minutes, the Bobcats led 16-12.
The Quinnipiac run lengthened to 21-0 in the second quarter, connecting on seven of its first eight attempts from the field. The Bobcats’ advantage ballooned to 14 points in the second quarter before a layup from sophomore guard Stella Johnson cut into the lead.
Johnson and junior guard Lexi Posset were two bright spots for the Broncs, scoring 42 of the team’s 62 points throughout the game. Posset stuffed the stat sheet, pulling down eight rebounds and dishing out six assists.
Heading into the locker room, the Bobcats held a 37-27 advantage after a late run by the Broncs.
— Rider University WBB (@RiderWBB) March 4, 2018
Throughout the second half, Rider battled to cut into the Quinnipiac double-digit lead, but the Bobcats answered every time. While shooting over 50 percent in the third quarter, Quinnipiac increased its advantage to 16.
Senior guard Kamila Hoskova posted 12 points, five rebounds and hit twice from beyond the arc in her final game as a Bronc. Hoskova was named to the All-MAAC Second Team prior to the tournament.
“Kamila came in four years ago and has just developed her game the way you’re supposed to,” said Milligan. “She worked hard every day for four years, and she was the heart and soul of our team.”
The final quarter followed suit as the Bobcats pushed their lead to 20, finally securing the victory.
“I thought today was a solid effort by us,” said Milligan. “We fought for 40 minutes, we played hard and represented Rider and our uniform extremely well. Quinnipiac was better than us today. We need to use that to process our season and look to the future.”
Quinnipiac repeated as MAAC Champions, defeating Marist in the title game.
WBB: @QU_WBB are the 2018 MAAC Champions!!
— MAAC Sports (@MAACSports) March 5, 2018
In the quarterfinal round, the Broncs upset fourth-seeded Fairfield behind a game-high 26 points from Johnson. Johnson came to play, grabbing eight rebounds, two steals and two assists.
The first half of the game was back-and-forth, and Rider led 26-25 as the teams headed into the locker room.
Johnson scored 14 points in the third quarter, including 10 straight, as the Broncs matched their first-half total of 26 points. After three quarters, Rider led 52-39.
“We talk a lot about starting the game and the second half strong,” said Milligan. “A lot of our game is geared off of our defensive intensity. I thought we came out of the locker room and really turned up our defensive pressure.”
The Broncs struggled to score, shooting only 2-for-12 from the field in the fourth quarter but maintained their lead by shooting 15-for-17 from the free-throw line. The Stags closed the gap but the Broncs held on, winning 71-64.
After a run to the semifinals this season, Rider is poised to make noise in next year’s tournament with most of its team returning. Hoskova and center Asyana’e Muwwakkil were the only two seniors on the team during the 2017-18 campaign.
“We have the same team minus [Hoskova] and we’re going to miss her a lot but we have Posset, [junior guard Lexi] Stover and [sophomore forward Tracey] Chapman, so we’re good,” said Johnson.
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