By Dylan Manfre
Entering the Jan. 26 contest against Canisius, the women’s basketball team was off to its best start in program history at 6-0, following a dominant 10-point victory at Manhattan. The Golden Griffins came into Alumni Gym and stole a win of their own, and handed the Broncs their first loss in MAAC play, 62-49.
Right from the tip, Rider got everyone involved with sharp passing and an acute awareness of where everyone was on the court. The Broncs’ first six points were scored by different players and they had four assists through the opening five minutes.
Canisius (7-12, 5-3 MAAC) shrugged off the early Rider momentum and started the second quarter on an 14-3 run to take a small lead. The spurt included a three-pointer and fadeaway layup from junior guard D’Jhai Patterson-Ricks. The Golden Griffins had been 0-for-3 from long range prior to the bucket. Canisius had been the top three-point shooting team in MAAC play and connected on 37 percent of its shots.
The Golden Griffins outscored Rider 21-13 in the second quarter to take a 31-30 lead into halftime. The Broncs’ ability to score off turnovers kept the game close. Rider forced 13 turnovers and converted them into 19 points.
Despite multiple Canisius runs, Rider never trailed by more than four points through the first three quarters. The Broncs were led by junior guard Amari Johnson, who poured in 21 points and junior guard Stella Johnson’s stat sheet-stuffing performance with 15 points, eight rebounds, six assists and three steals.
The Broncs knew heading into the game that perimeter defense would be key if they wanted to earn their sixth conference victory. Defending 6-foot-1-inch Canisius forward Sara Hinricksdotter, who averages 12.8 points per game, would be critical to keeping the momentum in Rider’s favor.
“Overall I thought that our perimeter defense and our ball-screen defense was solid,” said Head Coach Lynn Milligan. “We got stuck a couple times on some X-outs and some rotations where we gave some of their better shooters looks, which obviously can’t happen.”
Although both teams traded buckets for most of the third quarter, Rider’s passing was a thing of beauty.
The sequence of senior guard Lexi Posset, junior guards Stella Johnson and Amari Johnson displayed the urgency to find the open man. After Posset fed Stella Johnson, she dumped it off to a cutting Amari Johnson for a bucket.
“That part doesn’t really surprise me,” said Milligan. “That’s who we are. We’re not afraid to share the ball.”
In the final quarter Canisius jumped out to a nine-point lead, its largest of the game, with just under six minutes remaining. It also outscored Rider 11-4 at the 4:56 mark of the fourth quarter.
Rider will travel to Marist for a road contest on Jan. 30 at 7 p.m. The game can be streamed on ESPN+.