By Dylan Manfre
It took a little bit of time for the women’s basketball team to find its footing on Jan. 13 against Canisius after a familiar script transpired in the final quarter.
Rider started out with a lead and its opponent trimmed it down. This time, the Broncs were able to survive the comeback and win 59-51.
The Broncs (4-10, 2-3) have not played Canisius in two years after the Griffins bowed out of last season after numerous COVID-19 pauses causing them to play four games. Only four players on the Canisius roster ever had experience playing and three of them were sidelined due to injury.
Canisius cut Rider’s 12-point advantage to one with 1:30 left in regulation. The Broncs have seen this before. Against Manhattan on Jan. 6, the Broncs relinquished a 17-point fourth-quarter lead and lost by five.
“I think they had a little more motivation to come back from a deficit,” sophomore guard Makayla Firebaugh said. “They just hit their open shots and they hit some big shots as well.”
She was happy Rider was able to close this one out.
“It was needed. We needed to finish a game — finally,” Firebaugh said. “We didn’t finish Manhattan. We didn’t finish Quinnipiac, we lost those in the fourth quarter. [Tonight,] we finished in the fourth quarter like we needed to.”
Senior guard Lenaejha Evans led all scorers with 17 points and Firebaugh finished the game with 13 points.
Tonight, Rider’s offensive flair was kindled in the third quarter going up nine points after a Firebaugh 3-pointer. It converted six of its first eight field goals midway through the quarter. The Broncs had the continuity it was searching for in the first half. They ended the quarter shooting 9-for-16 from the field and 50% from long range.
Evans attributed that third-quarter success to waiting to set the tone for the rest of the game.
While the Broncs did have success in many areas, sophomore forward Raphaela Toussaint was someone who struggled during the game. At halftime, she contributed one point and uncharacteristically did not have a rebound.
The Griffins (2-11, 0-4) entered the game winless in Metro Atlantic Athletic Conference (MAAC) play but gave the Broncs a considerable fight in the second quarter. Canisius saw its first lead of the game courtesy of a Lydia Gattozzi layup.
Canisius’ Rhay Porter did not score much in the first half for Canisius but she dominated the glass, grabbing nine rebounds in her first seven minutes of action. She finished the game with 15 boards.
The Broncs have wins against the bottom-feeders of the conference in Canisius and Siena who are in the 10 and 11 spots respectively. But Rider still hasn’t been able to close out a game against the top half. Milligan says in due time it will, but she’s happy for a road victory.
“When we play the top teams again, we should be in a better place. It’s hard. We’re still early in the season in the MAAC,” Milligan said. “I’m just happy we’ve got two road wins. Any game you win in the MAAC is a good game, no matter who you’re playing, but if you can steal some games on the road, that’s huge. That says something about your team when you can win on the road because it’s tough to win on the road in the MAAC.”
Rider begins a home-and-home against Niagara as it continues a stretch of four games in seven days on Jan. 15 at 2 p.m.