By Dylan Manfre
ATLANTIC CITY, N.J. — In a low-scoring, grinded-out game, the women’s basketball team eked a 44-41 victory over Monmouth on March 9 to advance to the quarterfinals of the Metro Atlantic Athletic Conference (MAAC) tournament.
Head Coach Lynn Milligan described the close victory best: “You’d rather win ugly than lose pretty.”
The Broncs saw their best effort of the season from sophomore forward Anna Ekerstedt. Off the bench, she contributed a career-high 10 points on 4-of-6 shooting, adding three blocks in 13 minutes of action. Three of her points came off a late and-1 opportunity with 1:06 remaining in regulation.
Milligan agreed Ekerstedt was the unsung hero of the game.
“We haven’t been built around one person this year so when your opportunity comes you have to be ready and it was Anna’s time today and she stepped up,” Milligan said. “Vic [Toomey] got into a little foul trouble and we do see Anna do that every day in practice there’s no doubt about it. We call her ‘the claw’ and you saw today why. She got a couple of tips, blocks, steals, that’s what she does.”
Her teammates agreed this was her best game of the year.
“She stepped up exactly when we needed her to,” junior guard Amanda Mobley said. “She hit all the shots she does in practice … and it was the perfect time when we needed them and that’s what helped turn the game around.”
Ekerstedt had two of Rider’s 32 rebounds, though the Broncs let up a staggering 52 boards in the close win over the Hawks.
“It was a big issue today. We gave them opportunity after opportunity. We had some really great defensive stops but then just couldn’t secure that rebound,” Milligan said. “It’s not like it wasn’t obvious to our players … I felt like in the second half we were getting one opportunity and they were getting three.”
The Broncs had Monmouth’s number in the regular season, beating them 61-35 and 45-31 respectively, but it was clear the Hawks gave them trouble.
“I think our defense was really good this game, we had trouble on offense,” Ekerstedt said.
The Broncs struggled to shoot the ball early in the game and hit 14% of their shots in the first quarter, which frustrated Rider. Freshman guard Makayla Firebaugh, who is the team’s leading scorer and was named to the MAAC All-Rookie Team, finished the game scoreless on eight shots.
“When our offensive flow is not where we’re capable of … it is very frustrating trying to run through plays, getting shots,” Mobley said. “Our defense was good but our offense wasn’t flowing and that kind of hurt us a little bit today.”
Despite the slow start, sophomore guard Maya Hyacienth led all Broncs in points, scoring 11 and adding 10 rebounds for a double-double. Her and senior Daija Moses combined to score 16 of the team’s first 20 points of the game.
Rider will take on the No. 2 seed Quinnipiac Bobcats on March 10 at 2:30 p.m. In the regular season, the Broncs and the Bobcats split a pair of games, with Rider’s victory coming in overtime on Jan. 23.
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