By Stephen Neukam
The path to second place in the MAAC is clear for the women’s basketball team as Rider won a crucial away match against Niagara, 79-64, on Feb. 24 following a 66-60 loss to Quinnipiac on Feb. 21.
Junior forward Lea Favre posted a career-high 24 points to lead the Broncs in Niagara. She was followed by senior guard Lexi Posset and junior guard Stella Johnson who each scored 18 points.
Sophomore guard Deja Moses sank a three-pointer at the halftime buzzer to give Rider the 35-32 lead. The Broncs rode a 10-point burst from Stella Johnson in the third quarter to increase their lead to four and outscored the Purple Eagles by 11 in the fourth to secure the victory.
Junior guard Amari Johnson was the fourth Rider player to score in double figures as she finished with 10 points and 10 rebounds.
“It was a really good road win for this time of the year,” said Head Coach Lynn Milligan. “It is not an easy place to come up to, especially for just one game. I was really proud of our effort, particularly in the second half.”
The contributions from all around the roster have been crucial for the Broncs. In their last five victories, they have had at least four players score in double digits.
Rider’s effort on the defensive end also contributed to the win. The Broncs forced 17 turnovers. Rider is 12-0 this season when committing fewer turnovers than their opponents.
During the game against Quinnipiac, Rider controlled the match throughout.
The Broncs held a 27-11 lead after the first quarter and a six-point lead going into halftime.
To secure the program’s first-ever victory over the Bobcats, Rider needed to hold onto the four-point lead it took into the fourth quarter.
However, the resistance broke as Quinnipiac went on a 14-point run to open the fourth that saw the Broncs miss 11 straight shots. Stella Johnson fouled out of the contest less than a minute into the fourth quarter. The performance in the final frame proved deadly as Quinnipiac escaped with the win.
Posset finished with 15 points and six assists. Amari Johnson secured a double-double with 10 points and 13 rebounds.
The win clinched the Bobcats’ fifth consecutive MAAC Regular Season Championship.
The results from the two games put Rider’s conference record at 12-4 and gave it sole possession of second place. The Broncs are a game up on Marist.
Rider controls its destiny for the playoffs. If the Broncs win their remaining two games they will secure a first-round bye in the conference tournament.
Rider does not face a team with a conference record above .500 for the rest of the season. The Broncs will play Siena, which has a record of 8-8, and Fairfield, a team that boasts a mark of 7-10.
Marist, the third-place team on Rider’s heels, will face Niagara and Monmouth. Both sit at 8-8.
Additionally, if the Broncs were to hold the same record as Marist at the end of the season, Rider would win the tiebreaker, based on head-to-head results earlier in the season.
Rider hosts Siena on Feb. 28 at 7 p.m. and finishes the regular season at Fairfield on March 2 at 2 p.m.