Broncs best Marist in MAAC Tournament without Toussaint
By Jake Tiger
ATLANTIC CITY, N.J. – Despite the absence of one of its best players, 10th-seeded Rider women’s basketball pulled off a 63-50 upset of Marist on March 7, taking down the Metro Atlantic Athletic Conference (MAAC) Tournament’s seventh seed thanks to strong efforts from junior guard Makayla Firebaugh and graduate student guard Amanda Mobley.
“I thought you saw young ladies just refuse to lose … because they want to keep on playing together,” said Head Coach Lynn Milligan. “We knew the type of battle we were in for today, and I thought we responded very well.”
Junior forward Raphaela Toussaint was announced as out shortly before tipoff, leaving the Broncs without their leading rebounder and second-highest scorer.
Milligan stated after the game that Toussaint has a non-COVID-19 illness, and is considered day-to-day.
In Toussaint’s stead, Mobley and Firebaugh stepped up, scoring 20 and 19 points, respectively, in Rider’s first MAAC Tournament win since March 10, 2021.
Mobley tallied 20 points, eight rebounds and five assists in all to earn player of the game honors from the MAAC.
“[Mobley] was wonderful today. She was the difference in the game,” said Marist Head Coach Brian Giorgis, who plans to retire after the season. “They say, in the tournament, that guards win championships, and their guards did it today.”
The Broncs controlled a majority of the game, getting out to a 13-point lead late in the third quarter, but Marist soon switched to suffocating, aggressive full-court press, pushing in all of its chips with its season slowly fading away.
Swarming the ball, the Red Foxes began forcing turnovers that were cashed in for easy buckets. Suddenly, Rider looked up and the score was knotted at 46 with just under seven minutes left in the fourth quarter.
“We kind of got scared a little bit,” said Firebaugh. “Then Coach [Milligan] calmed us down, and was like, ‘No, we can do this.’”
The Broncs collected themselves during the timeout, and fired back at the Red Foxes with an imposing, and incredibly timely 12-0 run led by Firebaugh and Mobley, who picked apart the press with precision passing.
Rider outscored Marist 17-4 the rest of the way, securing a meaningful win for a team that completely transformed itself in February.
The upset victory moves Rider to the quarterfinal round, pitting them against the Niagara Purple Eagles, and a ferocious defense that leads the nation in turnovers forced per game with 28.64, and uses an airtight full-court press.
“I think we’ll be ready,” said Mobley ahead of the matchup with Niagara. “We’ve just got to mentally prepare for a faster game. But again, we can’t let what they’re doing dictate how we play.”
With a full head of steam, the Broncs take on the Purple Eagles on March 8 at 3:30 p.m. The game will be streamed on ESPN+.