Broncs exit MAAC Tournament after heartbreaking upset

By Carolo Pascale

ATLANTIC CITY, N.J. – March magic struck again for Saint Peter’s and the quarterfinal curse for Rider has returned.

No. 2 Rider men’s basketball fell 70-62 to No. 10 Saint Peter’s in the quarterfinal round of the Metro Atlantic Athletic Conference (MAAC) Tournament on March 9, ending an era centered around senior guard and two-time All-MAAC First Team honoree Dwight Murray Jr. 

“I wanted this for my team the most. We’ve always been the underdogs,” said Murray. “That’s why I really wanted to win it, for the school, for us. I love them boys. They brought me life.”

After getting to the semifinal of the tournament for the first time in 11 years last season, the Broncs once again fell victim in the quarterfinal round.

Nothing in particular faulted the Broncs, it was just poor play from all angles that sank them. Alongside that, senior guard Allen Powell, one of the team’s most dangerous scorers, appeared to suffer a hand injury in the first half, sidelining him for most of the second half.

Rider shot 24-for-56 from the field and 4-for-12 from three, its scoring led by senior forward Mervin James, who had a team-high 13 points.

“They outplayed us, out-toughed us,” said Head Coach Kevin Baggett. “Second half we didn’t execute or play well at all.”

Murray had guaranteed the Broncs would “win the whole thing” after last year’s semifinal loss. After the final buzzer, Murray put his jersey and hands over his head, knowing that his last game as a Bronc and college career had ended in gut-wrenching fashion. 

Through choked-up words, Murray said in the postgame press conference that this iteration of the Broncs was the best team he’d ever played on in his collegiate career. 

 Murray said that he wanted to give the experience of winning a championship to all his teammates, one of them being James, his longtime friend and high-school teammate, who transferred to Rider two years ago to reunite with him.

“I really wanted it for them more than anything. [James] came here for me just to be able to get into that situation,” said Murray after his 10-point performance. “It hurts, I wanted it for Rider.”

The normally fun-loving and energetic James said that being able to play with Murray took him back to high school and that it was a great experience, but also said what both of them were feeling.

“I don’t have too much to say right now,” said James.

Also in the tear-jerking press conference was graduate student guard Zahrion Blue, who had 12 points against the Peacocks. The local Princeton, New Jersey, product said that it was just an incredible experience to get to play in Atlantic City after transferring from Division II Lincoln University to Rider.

“This whole thing is just a blessing for me actually,” said Blue. “I love my teammates. They walk with me. It makes it so much harder that I started playing my best basketball a couple games ago.”

The Broncs’ 2022-23 season comes to a disappointing and brutal end with the loss, and Murray, James, Blue and three other players graduating. The Broncs will be bring back key pieces from this season such as Powell, junior guard Corey McKeithan and junior forward Tariq Ingraham.

Rider men’s basketball returns to action Fall 2023.

“They’re going to have a great team,” said Murray.

Video: Broncs exit MAAC Tournament after heartbreaking upset

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