By Shaun Chornobroff
The Rider women’s basketball team has had many of its losses come as a result of a similar pattern. They play a solid two-and-a-half or three quarters of good basketball, then when their opponent fights its way back into the game, the Broncs fail to show the willpower to counter.
That reigned largely true until Feb. 5, when the team showed grit and maturity against the Marist Red Foxes, leaving Poughkeepsie, New York, with a 60-50 victory that Head Coach Lynn Milligan was especially proud of.
“We were happy with the step we took,” said Milligan. “Obviously, winning a road game in the [Metro Atlantic Athletic Conference] is always a great step. So we felt good about a lot of our execution on both ends of the floor.”
Milligan’s team took its first lead midway through the first quarter and held that advantage into the second half when a 3-pointer from sophomore guard Makayla Firebaugh gave the Broncs a 33-26 advantage.
Marist responded with an 8-0 run that gave them a 34-33 lead late in the third quarter, leaving the Broncs in a familiar predicament. Rider had once again relinquished the lead in a game that it had largely controlled. Unlike many of its past losses, the Broncs engaged in a back-and-forth, trading blows with the Red Foxes well into the fourth quarter.
With the Broncs trailing by three, junior center Anna Ekerstedt nailed a crucial triple to tie the game with 6:26 remaining in the game.
From then on, the Broncs ran rampant, ending the game on a 15-5 run driven by their conversions on 9 of 10 free throw attempts in the final 90 seconds of the game.
“We’re usually a pretty good free throw shooting team. We were 18 for 21 in the game, and that’s a good number. … Getting there 21 times is big for us because we’ve had some games where we’ve been in single digit attempts,” Milligan said. “Getting to the line 21 times was big; making 18 was huge because it does take off pressure.”
Firebaugh paced the Broncs with 14 points and nine rebounds, making many crucial baskets after starting the game out in poor form from the field.
“I say that when my shot isn’t falling, I just need to trust myself and keep shooting. You saw that in action today,” the sophomore sharpshooter said.
Firebaugh was aided by forward and fellow sophomore Raphaela Toussaint, who herself responded from early game foul trouble to score 12 points, and senior guard Lenaejha Evans, who continued her stellar senior campaign with a full stat sheet once again. The senior from South Carolina scored 11 points, making 7 of 8 shots from the free-throw line along with accruing three steals and a blocked shot.
The win brings the Broncs to 6-14 on the season and improves the team’s record to 4-7 in Metro Atlantic Athletic Conference (MAAC) competition.
“We’ve just really got to be locked in every day to make sure that we grow to be a better team every single day,” Milligan said when asked what the next step was for her team. “You want to be peaking at the right time; you want to be peaking going into February, you want to be peaking going into March. And to do that we’ve just got to be really focused on what we need to do.”
Firebaugh, Milligan and the rest of the Rider Broncs will attempt to build off this victory on Feb. 10, when it takes on one of the MAAC’s most well-rounded teams, the Manhattan Jaspers.