By Stephen Neukam
A program-best conference season continued for the women’s basketball team as Rider swept a three-game homestand, defeating Monmouth, 65-50, on Feb. 7, Marist, 70-64, on Feb. 9 and Iona, 75-64, on Feb. 12.
In the match against Monmouth, the Broncs led throughout. The offensive production was shared among the Rider roster as four players scored in double figures. Junior guard Stella Johnson finished with 24 points, senior guard Lexi Posset scored 19 and junior guard Amari Johnson and junior forward Lea Favre posted 11 points each.
The win against Monmouth came after the Broncs lost two of their last three contests. The tough stretch had Rider on the verge of slipping to third place in the MAAC but the win helped fasten their grip on the second spot behind Quinnipiac.
The team riding the Broncs heel in the MAAC standings was Marist, which entered the game against Rider with an 8-4 conference record.
A close contest saw Rider with the halftime lead and a one-point advantage going into the final quarter. Marist tied the game at 64 with under a minute remaining but the Bronc offense went ahead with a Favre layup off a Stella Johnson assist. The game was sealed when Stella Johnson stole a pass on the ensuing Marist possession. The execution in the final minutes was key for the Rider win.
“[I liked] our composure at the end,” said Head Coach Lynn Milligan. “We got some big stops. I thought we executed very well in the fourth quarter and I thought that was the difference for us.”
Four Broncs scored in double digits yet again in the Marist game, as Stella Johnson finished with 23 points, Posset and Favre scored 16 and sophomore guard Daija Moses provided a spark off the bench with 11 points. Both Stella Johnson and Posset played all 40 minutes of the contest.
Along with her scoring output, Posset dished out five assists, grabbed four rebounds and recorded two steals. Milligan believed this may have been the senior’s best performance yet.
“[Poss] is the number one key to our success,” said Milligan. “I’ve been riding her hard for four years because I know what she is capable of. She was not going to allow us to lose this game today.”
The Marist victory brought Stella Johnson’s point per game average to 21.6 in conference play. Rider is 5-1 when she scores more than 20 points this season. She was named MAAC Player of the Week for the sixth time this season on Feb. 11.
“Stella continues to do what her team needs to win,” said Milligan. “This week, once again, she showed her all-around game on both ends of the floor. Stella continues to put in the work necessary for her team’s success.”
The Broncs next opponent, Iona, entered the game with a conference record of 0-12 and an overall record of 1-22. Over the past two seasons, the Gaels have amassed an overall record of 3-50.
The first half of action against the Gaels was largely controlled by the Broncs. Rider took a 10 point lead after the first quarter and extended it to 11 by halftime.
Iona continued to fight in the second and cut the Rider lead to just five halfway through the fourth quarter. Despite the Iona effort, Rider prevailed 75-64.
Amari Johnson posted a double-double with 19 points and 17 rebounds.
“I thought we struggled a little bit tonight,” said Milligan. “When we needed to come together and needed to make some plays at both ends of the floor we were able to do that.”
The win brought the Broncs conference record to 10-2 and tightened the team’s grip on second place in the MAAC.
Rider will travel to St. Peter’s on Feb. 15 at 7 p.m.