Late comeback stalls in 62-54 defeat

By Thomas Albano

The women’s basketball team’s season concluded when it lost 62-54 to St. Peter’s on March 5 in the opening round of the 2015 MAAC Tournament in Albany, New York.

While she felt her team was ready for the tournament after preparing all season, Head Coach Lynn Milligan said Rider (11-20, 8-12 MAAC) could not get the baskets when it mattered.

“We really struggled on offense,” Milligan said. “We got good looks at the basket and just couldn’t convert. It was a disappointing end to the season.”

The game between the seventh-seeded Broncs and 10th-seeded Peacocks (5-26, 4-16 MAAC) was quiet for the first three and a half minutes. The only points scored by then were a field goal from freshman guard Samantha Meier for St. Peter’s and a free throw by Rider sophomore guard Robin Perkins.

The Broncs then fell behind 11-3 but managed to pull within 3 with 12:17 to go. Then, with 3:45 remaining, Rider was down by 7 but rallied for an 8-2 run with help from senior guard Emily Fazzini and sophomore center Julia Duggan, ending the half down by only 1.

The first four minutes of the second half saw the Broncs tie the game twice and both teams each take over the lead three times. After a 3-pointer by freshman guard Alyssa Velles to give St. Peter’s the lead again, Rider could not battle back. The Peacocks went on a 12-4 run to go ahead 43-35 with 10 minutes left in the half. Five minutes later, the Broncs cut the lead to 53-49 with 2:36 left.

Rider, however, was unable to close the gap. With a minute to go, the team was forced to foul St. Peter’s players, who went 9 for 10 in all their foul shots taken within the last minute of the game. The Peacocks won 62-54, eliminating Rider from the tournament.

Two Broncs achieved double-doubles in the game: Duggan and senior forward Marritta Gillcrease. Duggan scored 15 points and had 16 rebounds, while Gillcrease added 11 points and grabbed 12 boards. Fazzini also had 15 points in the game.

Fazzini, who has dealt with injury after injury, felt she personally had a good showing to end her Bronc career.

“I was really proud of my performance this year on the court and didn’t expect my body to respond as well as it did, especially because this was my second ankle surgery in the past three years,” Fazzini said. “I was happy I got to end my career with a successful season personally, but disappointed we couldn’t end the season on a higher note collectively.”

St. Peter’s lost in the quarterfinals to the second seed, Marist. The finals of the tournament saw top-seeded Quinnipiac defeat Marist to end the Red Foxes’ nine consecutive championship run and cap off a season that saw them go undefeated in MAAC play.

In addition to Gillcrease and Fazzini, Rider will lose guards Kornelija Valiuskyte and Lashay Banks to graduation. Milligan, however, is confident the new veterans will transition into great leaders and help the new incoming players.

“Julia Duggan, Robin Perkins and [junior guard] Manon Pellet all started a good part of the season, and we are looking for their roles to grow,” Milligan said. “I am looking forward to all of our returning players to continue to develop. We will have some great new pieces to mix in as well.”

The departing Fazzini offered several pieces of advice to next year’s squad.

“If I could give any advice to the girls for next year it would be to work harder in the offseason, respect one another and develop good chemistry,” Fazzini said. “Chemistry can make or break teams, and those that are most successful have the best chemistry on the court.”

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