After the long winter break, the women’s basketball team traveled to upstate New York for a challenging two-game road trip. The Broncs brought out the brooms and swept past Niagara, 72-59, and upended an impressive Canisius squad that stood in second place in the MAAC, 56-55.
Rider finished the extensive break at a 4-9 clip, competing against top-notch opponents such as Virginia, the 15th ranked team in the nation, and Marist, which boasts a 20-2 record.
In mid-January, the Broncs strung together four straight wins, three of them against conference foes Manhattan, Loyola and Iona.
“Break was very long this year, so for the team to be able to stay focused and play well in January was a credit to them and their hard work,” said Head Coach Lynn Milligan.
The Broncs continued to exert balance and depth in the scoring column, showing off multiple offensive weapons. Rider had five different leading scorers over break.
“We are a very balanced team with many talented players, all of whom know and accept their role,” Milligan said. “This makes us harder to prepare for and very versatile at both ends of the floor.”
The Broncs entered their matchup last Friday against Niagara with a 6-14 record, and a 3-6 mark in the conference, but were winners of four of their last six games. They remained hot, cruising past the struggling Purple Eagles (1-20, 0-10 MAAC) for the victory.
In the first half, Rider grabbed solid leads twice, but each time Niagara crawled back into the contest. The Broncs went into the break with a three-point advantage, 35-32, but that’s as close as the Purple Eagles would get the rest of the game.
Rider jumped out of the gates in the second frame, starting the half on a 25-7 run, blowing the contest open and out of reach. Senior Shaunice Parker scored nine points during the stretch, while sophomore Cintella Spotwood cashed in two 3-pointers to jump start the offensive push.
Parker shot a perfect seven of seven from the field and finished with a game high 15 points, while Spotwood chipped in with 14. Rider’s leading scorer, junior Tammy Meyers, filled up the stat sheet, dropping 13 points, pulling down six boards and dishing out six assists.
The Broncs displayed their best shooting performance of the year (.52 percent) and set a season-high with 18 assists. Milligan was very pleased with the effort.
“We took very good shots and made the extra pass to put our teammates in successful situations and it paid off,” she said. “Defensively we played very well for the entire game.”
The Broncs faced a much tougher test on Sunday, matching up with Canisius, a team coming in 16-5 overall and 8-2 in the MAAC. The Golden Griffins ranked 10th in the country in 3-point field goal percentage (.38 percent) and possessed the second leading scorer in the conference in senior Marie Warner (17.5 ppg.). This didn’t prevent Rider from completing a tremendous come-from-behind victory.
The first half consisted of major runs by both teams. After Canisius scored the first bucket, the Broncs poured in 11 straight points to jump out to a nine-point lead. The Golden Griffins answered right back, returning the favor by going on a 21-6 run and regaining the advantage, 23-17.
The second frame was a different story as the half consisted of nine lead changes, four in the final minute of regulation. Rider trailed by seven points midway through the second half, before creating a remarkable 14-0 run and grabbing a seven-point advantage of their own.
The last minute turned into a seesaw battle after Canisius came roaring back, retaking the lead 53-52 with 44 seconds remaining. Meyers connected on a lay-up, but the Golden Griffins responded with a basket, leaving 14 seconds on the clock and setting the stage for Parker. The 5’11” forward found herself open for an 18-footer and drained it, giving the Broncs a thrilling one-point upset and completing the road weekend sweep.
“Canisius took away our first looks and Amanda [Sepulveda] didn’t panic and found Shaunice wide open and she hit probably the biggest shot of her career,” said Milligan. “Shaunice stepped up and made a huge play.”
Parker finished with 11 points and 11 rebounds, posting her fifth double-double of the season. Meyers poured in a game-high 18 points and handed out six assists, while junior point guard Sepulveda put in 12 and played all 40 minutes of the contest.
Rider looks to continue rolling on Friday as it takes on second place Fairfield at Alumni Gym at 7 p.m.
“We will prepare hard this week in practice and be ready for a great game,” Milligan said.