By Dylan Manfre
Rider women’s basketball looked exceptionally well for a team coming off a 17-day pause — until it blew up a 23-point lead in the final quarter and lost 63-58 to the Manhattan Jaspers on Jan. 6.
Jaspers Head Coach Heather Vulin told The Rider News prior to the game she thought both teams were going to be “rusty” and that held true for the Jaspers through three quarters. It held true for Rider in the fourth.
Rusty may be an inadequate word to describe Rider’s play in the final 10 minutes after it gave up a staggering 31 points.
“We’ve got to keep doing a better job of building to be a 40-minute team that we want to be because right now we’re a 30-minute team … we’ve got to find a way to get those last 10 minutes,” Rider Head Coach Lynn Milligan said.
The Jaspers erased the 49-32 Rider lead heading into the final quarter with ease. They trailed by one, midway through and put all the pressure on Rider to maintain the strong defense it displayed all game. The Broncs had led for a little over 91% of the game because of a successful zone defense.
Manhattan guard DeeDee Davis began hitting shots after going scoreless until the latter parts of the third quarter. Guard Sydney Watkins hit a 3-pointer pulling the Jaspers within one with 2:31 left in the game.
Davis heaved up a prayer from about 30-feet with two seconds left on the shot clock tying the game at 55. She hit a free throw with 24.3 seconds left in the game giving Manhattan its first lead of the game. That was the dagger.
It was one blow after another. Everything the Broncs did well ceased in the final 10 minutes. That is what was most frustrating to junior guard Jessika Schiffer.
“They got into a good flow,” said Schiffer on what was the most cumbersome part of the quarter. “[It was] one possession after one possession and our heads went down.”
Milligan’s squad did an exceptional job guarding Manhattan’s top options early in the game in Davis, who is the second-leading scorer in the Metro Atlantic Athletic Conference (MAAC), and of 6-foot-1 guard Brazil Harvey-Carr.
Vulin said Harvey–Carr should be in the “all-conference” conversation and after the second half she had, she proved her coach’s point by scoring 12 points with four rebounds and four assists.
Manhattan’s presence in the paint was diminished by the absence of star forward Courtney Warley, who was out with an injury, and Rider took full advantage. The Broncs outscored Manhattan 24-18 in the paint and that’s where a majority of sophomore guard Raphaela Toussaint’s 13 points came from.
“We got some good looks in transition … I thought [junior forward] Anna [Ekerstedt] and Raphie [Toussaint] did a good job on a couple run-outs,” Milligan said. “We were getting some transition buckets early, I thought some of our man-sets got some inside touches for Raphie and Anna and [junior forward Victoria Toomey] a little bit.”
Rider’s offense got a boost after a slow first quarter. Getting a 23-point lead was no easy task for a team that was 1-1 in conference games before Jan. 6. The scoring was spaced evenly and players were knocking down shots. Schiffer had a big first quarter with 10 of Rider’s 17 points. She did, however, finish with 12 points for the game. Senior guard Lenaejha Evans led the way for Rider with 14.
Schiffer and Toussaint attributed their strong play in the first three quarters to productive practices they had once they were out of quarantine. New Yea’s Day was the team’s first practice out of a pause, Milligan said.
Rider has a short turn-around between now and its next game on Jan. 8 against Fairfield at Alumni Gym at 7 p.m. That will be a tall task as the Broncs get set to face one of the conference’s best in senior forward Lou Lopez-Senechal.